Flood relief eases northern Lake Minnesota, giving resorts a much-needed break – the Twin Cities

Kapitogama Lake, Minnesota – About 30 feet separate a line of wet sandbags from the edge of the swollen Kapitogama Lake at Sandy Point Lodge in northern Minnesota.

The lake culminated about 4 inches above the hip height barrier as the Rainy Lake Basin flooded to record levels, damaging homes and threatening livelihoods as it happened. Now, with the worst likely behind them, residents and business owners are working to rebuild and repair.

“We’ve always maintained an optimism and an approach to it,” Tanner Steinlecht, one of the four owners of the inn, said Tuesday. He estimated that it could cost up to $800,000 to repair all the damage caused by the floodwaters. Steinlecht, his wife and in-laws bought the inn on May 20 while the lake was still encroaching on it.

“We knew what we were getting into, mostly, when we were buying it,” Steinlecht said. “We knew there was going to be a lot of ups and downs. A lot of the things we were planning to do when we took over on May 20 were pushed around.”

Despite hours of sometimes desperate sandbags — aided by a team of volunteers and the Minnesota National Guard — and a quartet of pumps depositing water into the lake from behind a leaky section of wall near the inn itself, five businessmen’ 11 guest cabins were damaged in the flooding. . The water rose to shin height in four of them, and a fifth was unrelated to his foundation. The lake’s water also damaged the resort’s sauna foundation and about half of the pier at the once-submerged marina.

As we saw on July 2, 2022, water levels receded from Sandy Point Lodge and Resort, leaving behind damaged piers and cabins on Kapitugama Lake in northern Minnesota. (White Buckner/Forum News Service)

Bistodeau and Steinlicht hired contractors to dry and clean the waterlogged cabins at the time. Despite this, Cabin 7 was still out of service on Tuesday. Surviving appliances and furniture were piled there on bricks, and several fans circulated air throughout the space.

“Everything was floating,” Al Bistodeau, one of the owners of the inn, said of the cabin.

He and Steinlicht aren’t sure who owns the pier at their resort, which has been washed away by unprecedentedly rising waters. They tied it to some trees near the shore to prevent it from floating up again and causing damage elsewhere. On Wednesday, Pestodo headed out to retrieve one of the resort’s picnic tables from a neighbor on the lake.

The previous 4th of July weekend was the first since late May that Sandy Point was officially open to guests. On a mostly sunny Tuesday afternoon, a family drove a fishing boat from the mooring toward the middle of the lake, while another family in matching shirts posed for photos near the shore.

Louis County’s flood response has shifted to “recovery mode,” according to Dewey Johnson, director of emergency operations.

That means reclaiming mountains of sandbags the county has sent out to trapped residents, as well as township, county and even federal government workers who have filed for compensation from FEMA for their work so far.

Johnson explained that private companies and property owners need to show a 40% loss in value to receive similar federal compensation.

Slowly draining rainwater

Lake Kapitogama has fallen by 48 inches since it peaked on May 31, according to National Weather Service workers. The lake drains west into Lake Rainy in neighboring Koochiching County. This lake, in turn, drains into the Rainy River and Lake Forest, and eventually into Canada and Hudson Bay.

Tara's Wharf is surrounded by slowly receding water from Lake Rainy on July 5, 2022, in Ranier, Minn.  (Wyatt Buckner/Forum News Service)
Tara’s Wharf is surrounded by slowly receding water from Lake Rainy on July 5, 2022, in Ranier, Minn. (Wyatt Buckner/Forum News Service)

The water in Lake Rainy is receding as well, but it’s still 4 inches higher than the previous record set in 2014. Weather service personnel expect the lake to drop by about 1 foot this week and that it may return to “normal” summer levels by August.

The Meteorological Service on July 4 canceled its flood warning for Kapitugama and Namakan lakes, but kept a warning in place for Rainy. Weather Service employees expect conditions in the area to remain dry for most of the weekday, but they eventually expect parts of the area to receive up to an inch of rain by July 11.

Future rainfall may “stop” lower lake levels, according to weather service personnel, and widespread flooding and impacts on property and infrastructure near Rainy are likely to continue over the next few weeks.

Rising optimism

Near the mouth of the Rainy River is the Rainy Lake Inn on Tara’s Wharf in Ranier, a mixed inn and seasonal ice cream shop that has also inundated this spring, though sandbag hills dotted along its perimeter. Floodwaters owner, Tara Nelson, explained that she came under the hood, flooding an ice cream shop and threatening to do the same in an adjoining guest room.

Immediately behind its dock is a public dock that is still underwater. The only indication is that the top half of the lighthouse is attached to the end and a few plastic containers, weighted with water, that hold the sidewalk in place.

A nearby bar owner raised $384 during a weekend concert for Nelson Pier, but gently shook her head when asked about the expected cost of the repairs.

The remains of sandbags previously reached by floodwaters at Tara Resort on Lake Rainier in Raniere, Minnesota, on July 2, 2022. (Wyatt Buckner/Forum News Service)
The remains of sandbags previously reached by floodwaters at Tara Resort on Lake Rainier in Raniere, Minnesota, on July 2, 2022. (Wyatt Buckner/Forum News Service)

“Fortunately, my losses aren’t so great that I can’t manage them, and we still have some summer season to get the most out of guests who want to come and customers who want to eat ice cream,” Nelson said.

Currently, Nelson plans to convert one of the quayside guest spaces into an impromptu ice cream shop and is considering turning the still muddy shop near the water into a varied breakfast nook room. The store remains closed, and during a 40-minute interview, a depressed pair of kids cycled away after learning so much, and Nelson had to pass on the same news to a potential customer who called to ask if the store was open.

“We are working hard to open an ice cream shop for all the people who want ice cream,” Nelson told the caller. “Thank you for checking in with me.”

She estimated that she receives about 10 such calls each day.

Now that the water is finally starting to recede, Nelson said she’s starting to feel optimistic. She pointed to a line of sand and dirt near the top of the boat indicating how high the water was. It was about 25 feet from the edge of the lake as of July 5. Immediately behind that sign is a pile of sandbags that Nelson didn’t have to add to her line closest to the water.

She hopes to reopen her former guest room ice cream shop by Friday, July 8.

“When the sun comes up it always helps because it makes you feel lighter and fuller,” she said. “It’s like you’re getting things done.”

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