Sandbagging efforts begin near Treasure Island Casino ahead of expected flooding

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With temperatures expected to rise this weekend, communities throughout Minnesota are trying to get ahead of the melt.

In Welch, Minnesota, the members of the Prairie Island community worked to fill 15,000 sandbags. Another 15,000 have been ordered.

“I’m trying to be optimistic, but I’m also really nervous,” said Shelley Buck, Prairie Island Tribal President.

Buck praises the outpouring of help, including from tribes around the state.

“It’s a little concerning,” said Buck. “I’m not one to really stress or worry about things, I kind of just go with the flow and let things be, but I’m worried about this. This is really concerning to me.”

Though the area sees some flooding each spring, the community hopes to avoid a major flooding event, which last happened in 2001. Since then, some berms have been added and crews are putting in three more now.

“There’s about 7,000 yards of sand material in here,” said Prairie Island Police Chief Jon Priem.

Work began Friday on the berms, which are stacked 11 feet high. Some of the sandbags are being used to hold down the plastic covering that will keep them from eroding. Without the added protection, waters could threaten Treasure Island Casino, the economic engine of the community.  

“It protects our main infrastructure, but it also protects our main road in and out off Prairie Island, which is Sturgeon Lake Road,” said Chief Priem.

But more than livelihood, there are lives to protect and homes to be sandbagged. The efforts show there’s more help from volunteers and government partners.

“There’s too much assets that we have these days that we need to keep going and protect,” said tribal council member Johnny Johnson.