Despite channel leak, Browns Valley stays dryby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Three years ago, the sign welcoming visitors to Browns Valley in western Minnesota was overtaken by floodwaters along with more than 100 homes and businesses.
Floodwaters again threatened the city near the South Dakota border this week, but things would have been a lot worse without a diversion channel that was built to control the level of the Little Minnesota River.
Homes and businesses in the city stayed dry this time, although an ice jam forced water to blow a large hole to the diversion channel. Water washed away about 1,800 square feet of an embankment and about 25 feet of roadway.
Browns Valley Mayor Jeff Backer said it caused about $200,000 in damage to the $4.2 million project that hadn't quite been completed.
"We definitely had our tense moments," he said, adding that officials plugged the hole with 15 truckloads of large boulders. "We're holding our own right now."
Without the diversion, Browns Valley might be experiencing even worse flooding than in 2007, including a foot of water on Main Street, he said.
"We have more water now than in 2007," Backer told MPR's Morning Edition. "This channel is doing what it's supposed to and that's protecting the citizens."
The flood diversion project was delayed last fall because of too much rain.
"We were not able to set the rocks in place to protect (for) erosion," Backer said. "We were concerned about that going into this spring."
Besides repairing the damage from the ice jam, work will resume on the diversion project when the water recedes.
(MPR's Cathy Wurzer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)