'We've done this a lot': St. Paul prepares for possible flooding in Lowertown

The City of St. Paul isn’t wasting any time preparing for possible flooding in Lowertown as crews continue building a levee to protect the neighborhood.

Fortunately we’ve had an ideal spring so far to minimize the possibility of a massive flood, but the Mississippi River is rising quickly and is expected to crest this weekend.

Tony Barott, who works near the river, said he’s had a front row seat to spring flooding for years.

“We came over to check and see where it was compared to 2014,” he said, describing his view. “The boat way out there…it almost looks like it’s floating away or something. Then you realize, that’s where it normally sits and the dock is under water.”

Not only is the dock submerged, but so is a good portion of Harriet Island where the river is really moving, and where people stopped to snap photos of the impressive current over the lunch hour.

It’s a similar scene all across St. Paul, including at the downtown airport where rising water has already shut down runways at Holman Field.

The sentiment around the city Tuesday is that it’s ready for the river to finally crest this weekend at about 20 feet, which is considered “major flood stage.”

“Unfortunately, because we’ve done this a lot, we’re good at it,” said Kathy Lantry, Public Works Director with the City of St. Paul.

In Lowertown, crews completed an earthen and sandbag levee on 2nd Street between Jackson and Sibley streets to protect the area from a potential long-term flood event. At its current height, the levee can sustain a 23-foot crest with the ability add another three feet on top if something truly disastrous occurs in the weeks ahead.

“It is something we have learned over time,” Lantry said. “Unfortunately, St. Paul has dealt with floods a number of times in the past, so we have an excellent protocol.”

Lantry said the temporary levees will likely be in the place for weeks, potentially a month depending on what the river does. She estimated the total costs of the temporary flood efforts could reach about $750,000.