Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 



Approximate extent and depth of flood-peak inundation, flood of June 2012, for the Moose Horn River and Moosehead Lake at Moose Lake.

It has been one year since 10 inches of rain fell June 16–20 on ground saturated by a 10-inch rainfall on Memorial Day weekend.

The waters rose and the region had its worst flood in recent history. It was said to be a 500-year flood. Duluth and St. Louis County suffered damage but, by far, the worst damage occurred in Carlton County.

The high waters traveled south, and northern Pine County also suffered heavy damage.

One year later, owners of homes that are not able to be salvaged are awaiting a buy-out. The Minnesota Legislature approved $10 million in funding during a special session last August to be used to purchase the homes.

The damaged homes in Pine County eligible for the buy-out total $6.5 million, according to information from the Pine County Assessor’s Office.

Some properties qualify for federal funding. Seventy-five percent of the federal funds are matched by 25 percent of state funding.

After the homes are purchased, the buildings are removed, the wells capped, and the septic tanks removed or crushed, and the electrical service removed. The properties must be returned to a natural condition within 90 days after the buy-out.

The City of Barnum has closed a purchase, using the DNR funds, on one home that was damaged beyond repair on the west side of the city, said Pat Oman of the Barnum City Council. A total of five properties in Barnum and five properties in Moose Lake will be bought out by each city with the state DNR funding, and each property will be turned into green space. Those properties can never be the sites for future homes, they can only be used for parks, public gardens, parking lots or tree plantings.

The properties are purchased at pre-flood values.

To streamline the process, the city council in Barnum is now the planning commission.

The planning commission is discussing how to best use two adjoining pieces of property in the center of the city that will be vacated after buy-outs.

The buy-out process has been delayed on one home next to the park in Barnum because of its historical significance. It was said that it had been built originally as a home for railroad construction workers.

Four or five units on the first floor of Parkside Apartments in Barnum are still not occupied.

Three of the seven units in the Felgin building near the Parkside Apartments are now occupied. The Hawk Shop and Berube’s Auto did not receive flood damage.

Lou’s Rustic Diner in Barnum was heavily damaged but Lou and Robin Paulson took on the expense of rehabilitating the diner themselves, said Oman.

Other commercial buildings in Barnum have been rehabilitated and are occupied once again.

Infrastructure in Barnum, such as the sewage pumps, were damaged and replaced with pumps that will work under water.

The gazebo in the park floated away during the flood. The contractor that had constructed the original gazebo has been hired to re-build the gazebo. It will be anchored firmly.

The gazebo had been constructed as a memorial to Mavis Juntunen. The memorial plaque was found and will be put back in place on the new gazebo.

Carlton County allocated $2 million in Minnesota Investment Funding, and those funds have been used in loans to businesses that had received heavy damage, such as C & C Builders in Barnum and Lampert Lumber in Moose Lake.

Residents in both Barnum and Moose Lake, where residents were able to remain in their homes, could apply for low interest loans through the Small Business Administration and Quick Start.

However, applicants had to be income eligible. Senior citizens with a will or a life estate did not qualify for the loans.

“Those loans only helped a small percentage of the people,” said Oman. “They could only get a maximum of $40,000, and a lot of them had $100,000 in damage. A lot of lessons were learned.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds have been used for rehabilitation. Tom Paull, the Moose Lake Flood Manager, said that 51 damaged sites, including streets and buildings, were identified in the city. Repairs to 14 of the 51 sites have been completed or are under construction.

The sewage pumps in Moose Lake had failed during the flood. The pumps had been removed, dried out, and replaced. Three options are under consideration to prevent damage during future floods.

Work on the little league field behind the school has just been completed, and the kids will be able to play ball on the field once again.

The bill for the repairs to the Moose Lake School totaled $850,000. FEMA funds have been received to reimburse all but $30,000 of the cost of the repairs. The final payment is expected soon.

The air quality in the school has been monitored and will continue to be monitored. The levels of mold spores have been within acceptable limits.

School started two months after the flood, and the building was ready for occupancy, except for the media center. That was completed and opened a few weeks later.

“It was a lot of work done by a lot of people,” said Superintendent Robert Indihar. “We were able to give the school a facelift with new sheetrock, new paint and a thorough cleaning. But the infrastructure issues are still there.”

To aid people recovering from damages caused by the flood, the Moose Lake Flood Relief Fund was set up. Over $80,000 in donations passed through the fund. Applicants could request up to $750 to replace appliances or for other expenses caused by the flood.

The accumulated monies in the fund have been distributed, and the fund was closed on June 13.

Funds are still available from Flood Homes with Hope, a regional fund.

In addition to damages to homes and infrastructure, residents experienced psychological damage. Counseling was available, and Camp Noah was held last summer to give kids the tools to cope with the devastating events in their lives.

“The camp gives the kids resiliency,” said Wendy Hjelmberg of Hope Lutheran Church, Moose Lake, where the camp is held. “It was started in the Red River Valley after the flood there, and it also has been used to help kids after wildfires. The camp gives them tools. Natural disasters take control away from adults and kids. The camp gives tools to kids to be able to manage in a crisis or tragedy. They learn great life skills. They learn that they are all God’s children, first of all, and that they will be okay.”

The camp will be held from June 24-28 this year at Hope Lutheran, and students from the Willow River School District will be attending.

“There are people in the community who are living with the effects of the flood every day,” said Cindy Carlson, a member of the administration team for the Moose Lake Flood Relief Fund, in an interview several months ago.

To mark the first anniversary of the flood and to celebrate the area’s resilience and recovery, a street dance has been set for Saturday, June 22, on Elm Avenue in downtown Moose Lake near the civic and community center from 2–10 p.m. Proceeds will assist those affected by the 2012 flood.


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