Leaders work to repair County Road 34

Published 9:22 am Tuesday, June 17, 2008

As flood-ravaged communities across the area begin picking up the pieces from last week’s floods, leaders from Freeborn County and the state level are busy working to secure funds to repair County Road 34, which was washed out by increased water levels last Wednesday night.

The washout led to the death of one man, Dale Wangen, of rural Albert Lea.

Freeborn County Engineer Sue Miller said County Road 34 washed away because of historic rainfall events — not just on the night it collapsed but in the weeks leading up to it.

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For example, one individual she talked to said he had received 13 inches of rain since the end of May, Miller said.

“When you have saturated conditions and then a flash condition, it’s really difficult to design for that,” she said.

She estimated that the repairs to the road and the culvert below it would cost between $150,000 and $200,000.

When floods washed out the same spot in the road in 2004, the destruction was not as bad, Miller said. The pipe did not have to be replaced.

But this year, she doesn’t think it turned out so lucky.

She said she spent all day last Friday with the state engineer making requests to get on the Federal Highway Administration’s list to get emergency funds.

And she has not yet heard whether Freeborn County has been declared a FEMA county, she said.

Miller said if the Federal Highway Administration comes back and says the county is denied the funding, she will go back to FEMA and explain that there are no other options.

In the meantime, a full-blown assessment is being conducted at the site to determine what exactly the course of correction needs to be.

State Sen. Dan Sparks said he has talked with Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s staff about the situation to see if there are any emergency funds that could be used in this instance.

He said there is $1 million set aside for the Shell Rock River Watershed, and he was hoping to be able to use some of those funds for the repairs.

“We need to fix it,” he said. “We have people looking into it to see where we can get those funds.”

The funeral for Wangen, who died after his vehicle hit an embankment on the washed out road and then plunged into the flood waters below, will be Tuesday.