Though Waseca, Owatonna, and other cities farther south saw the worst of the damage, Rice County is getting plenty attention, as it attempts to deal with and recover from flooding concerns over the last few days.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Vicki Jensen, D-Owatonna, and Rep. Brian Daniels, R-Faribault, paid a visit to the Faribault Wastewater Treatment Plant Saturday afternoon to get a look at what the city is dealing with at the site. On Thursday, Public Works Director Travis Block led an effort to get a berm built up on the river side of the facility for the third time in six years.
In 2014, upon the second time of building the berm, the city looked to build it permanently. However, due to funding rules from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the berm had to be taken down, in order for the city to receive $120,000 in reimbursement.
Klobuchar was on site Thursday to learn. She said she was impressed by the efforts to allay any flood damage in the city, but her message seemed to be that it might be time for Faribault to look at a longer-term situation at the wastewater site.
"We've seen, during this flooding, that there are multiple federally-funded projects that can provide aid," Klobuchar said. "There are mitigation projects that make a big difference."
Klobuchar also visited the flooded site at the Faribault Woolen Mill.
The 2016 flooding has yet to impact the treatment facility with the berm providing a more-than-effective barrier. Block said Saturday that the rains expected Saturday evening weren't likely to raise the Straight River to levels any more dangerous to the facility.
According to Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn, flood levels in Faribault started slowly decreasing by Friday evening.
However, in Northfield, the Cannon River continued to rise, slowly, over Friday night and into Saturday morning. The river in Morristown also continued to rise slowly over that time, according to Dunn.
"We're definitely hoping for less, rather than more, rain Saturday night," he said. "We have three or four county roads that are going to need some more work."
The Northfield Police Department issued a press release Friday evening and again Saturday morning, providing details on the flooding status in the town. According to the Saturday release, the river reached its highest point early Saturday at 900.88 feet above sea level, which is 7.5 feet above levels from the previous Wednesday.
Police Chief Monte Nelson also expects the Cannon's levels to remain high for "quite some time." Sechler and Babcock parks have both been closed in the city. The downtown walk bridge, bicycle bridge and Fourth Street bridge are all closed to vehicle traffic, though the latter is open to foot traffic.
In Faribault, the Woolen Mill continues to be surrounded by water, as Alexander Park remains flooded. Second Street Northwest was still closed Saturday afternoon from Fairgrounds Drive to 14th Street Northwest, due to water in the road, in front of the Alexander Park entrance.
Sheriff Dunn is asking all residents, throughout the county, to exercise caution near flooded areas, and to stay out of the river waters.
"I try to be proactive in telling people not to go kayaking, tubing, whatever," he said. "That’s not a smart thing to be doing. Right now, I just don’t think being on the water is safe."
The National Weather Service is predicting a 90 percent chance of rain late Saturday and early Sunday, with potentially 0.5 to 1 inches coming down in Rice County. City and county departments will continue to monitor flood levels and road conditions through the weekend.