City, residents and businesses getting ready for more flood clean-up efforts in Prairie du Chien

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St. Feriole Island is still mostly covered with water, but it is hoped that the river will have receded enough by mid-May that clean-up efforts can begin. (Photos by Ted Pennekamp)

The St. Feriole Island Ballpark parking lot was full. The three ball diamonds, the concession stand and the press box are high and dry, however, because the ballpark was constructed so as to be higher than a 100-year flood.

The River is expected to get down to 16 feet by May 10. Minor flood stage is 16 feet.

This alligator looks quite content, having found a nice resting spot on the roof of a quiet cottage on North Main Street near the intersection with Frederick Street.

 

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Mississippi River crested at 21.75 feet on Friday, April 26 and has been steadily receding since. At 6:45 a.m. on Monday it was at 18.32, and it is expected to be down close to 16 feet by May 10.

The city has been holding high water meetings since March, and City Administrator Chad Abram said another has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on Tuesday in the City Council Chambers.

“Hopefully, this will be our last high water meeting for awhile,” said Abram, who noted that the meetings have been attended by city officials and employees as well as affected homeowners, businesses, and Crawford County Emergency Government Director Jim Hackett. Pattison Sand of Prairie du Chien and Prairie Sand and Gravel representatives have also attended the meetings and generously donated sand for sandbagging efforts prior to the flood. Inmates at the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution helped to fill the sandbags.

“We are really thankful to Pattison Sand and Prairie Sand and Gravel, and to the inmates for filling sandbags,” said Abram. “It really helps.”

The meetings of late have focused on clean-up efforts, mostly on St. Feriole Island, now that the water is going down. When the water gets low enough, said Abram, several city departments will be conducting clean-up efforts in all affected areas of the city.

The water deposited branches, twigs, barrels and other debris at various locations in the city, and much has already been cleaned up as the water’s recession has allowed.

Hopefully, around mid-May, the water will be low enough to allow for a full scale clean-up of St. Feriole Island. Abram said crews from the Fire Department, the Street Department and other city personnel will be getting rid of branches and other debris. Shelters, sidewalks and roads will also be cleaned of silt or sand. Buildings such as the Fur Trade Museum, the canoe and kayak rental building in the Washington Street Park, the Cedar Building (haunted house building) and other buildings will be hosed off and cleaned. City crews will also be available to help clean up the Dousman House, the Depot Bar, and the Villa Louis grounds if needed. Abram said Villa Louis personnel have been meeting with the city on a regular basis.

Abram said flood clean-up kits are available from Crawford County Emergency Government for homeowners or businesses who want to clean up their basements. He said homeowners can help by collecting debris and stacking it near their sidewalks so that the Street Department can come by and pick it up.

Abram said the city will be addressing the situation with docks in the near future. The docks at the Campion Street Boat Landing were twisted and damaged when they were struck by large chunks of ice flowing down the river. The kayak dock at Washington Street Park was damaged as were various sections of fence at Lawler Park.

“We are working on a plan to get the docks out every year before high water,” said Abram.

Along with city crews, inmates from Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution will help to clean-up St. Feriole Island, as well as volunteer citizens.

Abram said some fencing around the Mississippi River Sculpture Park has been damaged and will need to be replaced. The remaining fence and the sculptures will be cleaned off.

Tom Nelson of the St. Feriole Gardens said that as of May 2 there was three and a half feet of water over the gardens. He said the gardens remain wet even when the river drops to 16 feet (flood stage).

“I’m optimistic,” said Nelson in hopes that clean-up work can begin on St. Feriole Gardens by the middle of May. “We have submitted a plan for when the water recedes enough.” Nelson said that any and all volunteers will be welcome.

“A big concern is that beavers have caused damage,” said Nelson. “Four new trees in Lawler Park are down and there are probably more in the gardens. During the last flood, a nine-inch diameter tree was gnawed down by beavers in the gardens.” Beavers don’t normally go to areas like the gardens but they do when the water is high.

“Those trees will have to be replaced,” said Nelson. “A lot of mulch has probably washed away as well. We have the money but we will need help to get it done. St. Feriole Island is a special place. Thousands of people use it, but every time it floods it gets tested.”

Nelson said if anyone would like to volunteer to help with the gardens, they can call him or his wife Cathy at 326-8602, or the Prairie du Chien Parks and Recreation Department at 326-7207.

Various businesses in and around Prairie du Chien have been affected by the flood. Rowdy’s D&D Bar and Grill and the Blackhawk Supper Club, both at the intersection of W. Blackhawk Avenue and North Main Street, had to pump water out of their basements and continue to do so. The Crooked Oar Bar and Marina along County K built a temporary dam which held back flood water so it didn’t enter the bar. Big River Campground moved numerous trailers to higher ground.

Pattison Sand Company was also affected. Director of Aggregate Sales and Marketing Jackie Lee said the rail transloading facility along the Highway 18 Bypass in Prairie du Chien will be closed an estimated 28 days due to the flooding. Eighteen of those days were from the first rising water and crest of April 5. There is also an anticipated additional 10 days with the second wave of flooding that crested on April 26. 

Pattison Sand Company donated 20 tons of sand to assist the city with flood mitigation. That sand was used for sandbagging efforts in various locations throughout the city, said Lee.

“We are thankful for the diversity of our operations, as the 10 employees who were displaced due to flooding in Wisconsin were moved to our Clayton, Iowa operations so they could continue working,” said Carl Orr, Wisconsin Operations Manager for Pattison Sand Company. “Our team worked hard to plan appropriately to continue servicing our customers, pre-loading material in anticipation of the higher water. In the end, we were still unable to ship an estimated 400 cars due to the flooding out of our facility in Prairie du Chien.”

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