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Minnesota National Guard
Tiny Minn. town beats back flood waters

by Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
April 11, 2011

Georgetown, Minn - The swollen Red River will stay high for some time, causing worries for small communities just north of Moorhead

Flooding in the Red River valley has shut down many roads, including a portion of Interstate 29 north of Fargo, ND In Minnesota, Clay County officials say more than 60 roads - or 100 miles - are closed to traffic That makes it a challenge to get around in isolated towns


In tiny Georgetown, 129 residents are nearly surrounded by water from the Buffalo River The streets are a muddy mess, because the Army Corps of Engineers has put up an emergency clay dike and raised the level of existing levees around town The heavy equipment left ruts in the dirt roads and tore up people's yards

Retired railroad worker Lester Nelson is used to floods, having lived in the same house on the Buffalo River for 45 years But Nelson, 82, said the last few years have been the worst

"You kind of just get disgruntled, because just about the time you figure spring is coming and then you have the flood and then you have all that goes with it," he said "Then there's the cleanup, and about the time you've got everything cleaned up and looking real nice again, the mosquitoes come, you sneeze two times and you're right back to winter"

The clay dike in Nelson's back yard is all that's protecting his home from floodwater The dike means few people in town have to worry about sandbagging Still, Nelson said, it's hard to justify spending lots of money each year to put up temporary dikes and then take them down

"They'd be better off to buy out all the homes and everything right here in Georgetown, and 'doze it," he said "It would make a lovely rest stop Put a sign on the highway, picnic tables, maybe an outhouse, and a sign on the highway that this was historic Georgetown From the monetary point of view, it would be the sensible thing to do"


Not everyone is willing to give up on Georgetown - especially Traci Goble, the town's mayor

Standing in the mud next to a fenced area at the center of town, Goble points out what the town lost when the Army Corps of Engineers mined it for clay to build up the dike
"This used to be Georgetown ball diamond," she said "It's a big hole, 20, 25 feet deep"

Goble has battled a major flood in each of the three years she's been in office She's asked lawmakers for $35 million for a long-term fix, enough to buy 19 properties to make way for a permanent levee

"I think a lot of people are willing to fight for this community"
- Traci Goble, Georgetown mayor

Such permanent protection would allow the town to grow, said Goble, who envisions Georgetown as a become community for people working in Moorhead, about 10 miles to the south

"I think a lot of people are willing to fight for this community," she said "It's 152 years old It's Clay County's first born It's a historic town Why would you want to see that go under?"

As it is now, the state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars protecting Georgetown from floods That includes a platoon of National Guard soldiers who've taken up residence in Georgetown's community center

The soldiers are monitoring the dike around the clock, watching for leaks Sgt David Moscho said he's amazed at how much work has been done since the platoon arrived on Friday

"When we came into town there was very little built, and within four days the whole town was surrounded by a dike," Moscho said "They've all pulled together and they're working very hard to keep their town dry and safe and save these homes"

All but one of the roads into Georgetown is closed because of flooding Officials say the Buffalo River is at or near its crest It could be several days before the water recedes

More from MPR
Red River flood fight moves north of Fargo-Moorhead
April 11, 2011

Rural areas new focus of Red River Valley flood fight
April 10, 2011

Red River Valley cities plea for more flood mitigation funds
April 8, 2011

Fargo-Moorhead prepare to exhale as Red River levels off
April 9, 2011

Learning the lessons of past Red River floods
April 9, 2011

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