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OUR VIEW: Flood response is impressive, but we need to keep planning for the next one

People talk about “baptism by fire,” but at least two local officials got a “baptism by flood” last week.

Kyle Holmes started the week in his usual position of Chief Deputy Assessor, then went to a second interview for the job of Carlton County Assessor — after a 6 a.m. start to his Tuesday work day to survey the flooding — then got the job offer Tuesday afternoon and accepted Wednesday morning.

Moose Lake City Administrator Tim Peterson had been on the job five days when the Pine Journal spoke with him last week Wednesday, as the flood waters continued to rise in Moosehead Lake.

Both men exemplify the response to the most recent round of flooding by public officials, which was thoughtful, thorough and proactive. Everyone from township to city to county employees definitely learned from the 500-year flood in 2012 and it showed in the way they worked both during and after the flooding.

Peterson, as a newcomer, may not have had the knowledge to steer the ship, but he was quick to respond to inquiries and listened to the city’s employees, who did speak from experience.

“I can’t stress enough, from the moment it even looked like it might flood through this morning, we’ve had incredible attention to detail from police, fire, utilities and more,” he said. “This city is extremely prepared and has worked tirelessly since it started raining two days ago.”

We congratulate everyone who worked to respond to last week’s flash flooding in southern Carlton County, including the many volunteers who turned out to clear parks or help neighbors. And we should not forget the Minnesota Sex Offender Program clients and Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) inmates, who filled sandbags (MSOP and CIP) and stacked them around the main lift station (CIP) in Moose Lake.

At the same time, we can’t help ask what more could be done. It feels like flooding events such as this one are not a “once every 100 years” event anymore, and our cities, county and state should plan accordingly.

Homes should not be rebuilt in flood plains, and cities need to work toward a goal of ensuring their sewage treatment systems will not be overwhelmed by rain and high waters, although we acknowledge that they cannot build for catastrophic events. Residents also need to embrace their own responsibilities for making sure their sewer drains are not letting in rainwater and contributing to the challenges our sometimes sodden cities face.

We hope officials will continue the work of preparing Carlton County and its residents for the future that climate change is surely bringing already.

Jana Peterson

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