Debris, danger accompanies unusually high water levels


Heavy rains have closed roads, caused basement sump pumps to work overtime and created dangerous conditions on many Minnesota lakes, streams and rivers. With more rain in the forecast for the weekend, swimmers, anglers and boaters are being urged to use caution as the summer weekend approaches.

The Star Tribune reports that on swollen Lake Minnetonka, docks are under water, boat launches are flooded, there are wave-reducing speed restrictions on boats and floating debris is creating risks and obstacles for people on the busy lake.

Around the state, the high water caused a no-wake zone to be re-established along the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls to Prescott, Wisconsin. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the three locks on the Mississippi River to recreational boats for the third time this season. And Minnehaha Creek continued to rise Wednesday; three homes and a church along the creek have flooded.

“Water levels are going to remain high for some time,” Minnehaha Creek Watershed District spokeswoman Telly Mamayek told the Star Tribune. “People need to understand there’s so much water out there, it’s going to take a while.”

KARE talked to the mother of a teenager who drowned in high water over the Memorial Day holiday. Danelle Johnson's 14-year-old son Dylan Thorp was swept away after wading in fast-moving water in the Mississippi in St. Paul Park. She wants other teens to understand the danger.

"It happens so quick that it's just not safe," she said. The Center for Disease Control states one in five people who drown are 14 years or younger. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources notes that so far this year there have been six drowning deaths in Minnesota.

Meanwhile, FOX 9 reported that at least 25 homes in the city of Mound have been flooded by the storm sewer system and liquid sewage. Earlier this week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency gave Mound permission to discharge sewage into the lake when its sanitation system was "overwhelmed" during heavy weekend rains.

On Sunday, the PCA issued an advisory recommending no swimming in Lake Minnetonka. The Hennepin County health department gave the go-ahead to reopen all but two beaches but FOX 9 said the Minnesota Health Department is warning swimmers to stay away until more tests are done. Additional results are expected Thursday, but some lake lovers told Fox 9 News said they don't plan to get in the water any time soon regardless of the results. Hennepin County posts updates of water quality that it monitors on county lakes.

KSTP reports the fear of contaminants and the no swimming order is taking a toll on lakeside businesses. Tommy Drummond, owner of Tommy's Tonka Trolley told the station that his business has lost $1500 in reservations of kayak rentals from people concerned that the water was unsafe.

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