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Hazard Mitigation Success Stories

Mitigation Success Stories in Minnesota

Success stories illustrate how mitigation projects have worked to reduce damages to people and property, and keep Minnesota and its population safe. The examples listed here provide information and documentation of the value of a comprehensive hazard mitigation program.
What is Mitigation? Video on YouTube made by External Affairs during a Community Education & Outreach event at the Wadena Co. Fair for DR-1921-MN.

Zumbro Falls Acquisition Project

Every summer, a small town in southeastern Minnesota welcomes visitors who enjoy the Zumbro River for canoeing, tubing and fishing. But that same scenic waterway has repeatedly caused major flooding in Zumbro Falls. Homes — many of which were located on the aptly named “Water Street” — flooded year after year until a successful hazard mitigation project removed the houses and provided the community with an attractive green space. 

Moorhead Pumping Station

When residents in the western Minnesota communities of Moorhead, Dilworth and Oakport faced spring flooding from the Red River of the North, they also faced the possibility of losing their primary source of clean drinking water.
Every year, the leaves, sticks, and other debris in the river clogged a crucial intake screen, reducing the amount of river water that could be pumped into the treatment facility. The solution involved a new pumping station, a deeper intake screen placed in the center of the river, and bursts of air. This hazard mitigation project, completed in 2013, has provided peace of mind and a steady supply of drinking water to more than 40 thousand people. 

Wadena-Deer Creek High School Safe Room

It was June 17, 2010. Students were enjoying summer break, but about 25 people were inside the Wadena-Deer Creek School building. Some were making last minute preparations for a class reunion as an EF 4 tornado approached. Thanks to NOAA weather radios, outdoor warning sirens, and a look out the window, those in the school were able to find shelter in a basement or interior space. No one was seriously hurt — but the school was destroyed.. 

Loss Avoidance Studies

Loss Avoidance Studies provide a quantitative approach to assess performance of mitigation measures, in this case, property acquisitions. Working with the state and local jurisdictions, data is collected for the study and multiple analyses are conducted to determine if there were measurable avoided losses since the projects’ completion. The reports contain project descriptive information and the impacts of those projects.

Austin, Minn. 2013

Following the severe storms and floods of 2004 (DR-1569-MN), 2008 (DR-1772-MN), and 2010 (DR-1941-MN) that led to Major Disaster Declarations in areas of Minnesota, FEMA initiated a Loss Avoidance Study to assess the effectiveness of previous acquisition/demolition projects in the affected areas of Austin, Mower County along the Cedar River and its tributaries, Dobbins and Turtle Creeks. The actual flood events were analyzed to determine the Losses Avoided Ratio or percentage of savings by estimating the losses that were avoided and comparing them to the costs of the resources that were invested.
The first LAS on this area was completed on 163 residential properties in March 2001. This study updates the original 163 properties as they relate to the 2004, 2008 and 2010 events.
Read the full 2013 Austin Loss Avoidance Report here.

Montevideo, Minn. December 2010

City of Montevideo, Minn.  was selected for their acquisition (with Federal and State assistance) of 48 repetitive-loss properties. The total losses avoided were estimated at $8,394,030. The total project investment for the project was $1,123,145. As a result, the collective return on investment for the ten flood events was 747 percent.

Moorhead, Minn. December 2010

City of Moorhead, Minn was selected for their acquisition (with Federal and State assistance) of 27 repetitive-loss properties. The total losses avoided were estimated at $9,443,150. The total project investment for the project was $2,966,850. As a result, the collective return on investment for the five flood events was 318 percent.

Let a Tree Fall, We’ll Have Power to Hear It: Lake County Converts Power Lines.

Only July 4, 1999, a strong thunderstorm caused severe tree blowdown and power outages resulting in a disaster declaration. The Cooperative Light and Power Association of Lake County – which is over 90 percent forested - received two HMGP grants to convert overhead power lines to underground cables. This has proven valuable to the customers as in March of 2009 during the worst ice storm in 20 years, over two inches of ice fell breaking trees, branches and power lines. If no mitigation had occurred, the power outages for the 3,000 customers would have been extended by several days. It would have taken much longer to clear the lines and rebuild them, leaving people in the cold all the while. 

Read the full report from FEMA. 

Mitigation Plays Strategic Role in Local Land Use Planning.

East Grand Forks, Polk County. After the 1997 flood, during which 90 percent of the city was impacted, the city utilized HMGP to acquire 370 flood-damaged properties. Through comprehensive land use planning – the flood provided impetus for the 2035 Land Use Plan - and deed restrictions required by the HMGP, the land adjacent the Red and Red Lake Rivers was converted to green space. The successful combination of land use planning and flood mitigation has shown how a city can protect itself from floods while attracting visitors. By focusing on flood protection for the city, the planning effort has effectively and realistically protected its citizens from future floods while assuring a high quality of life. 

Read the full report from FEMA.

Mitigation Prevents Disaster Declaration for Montevideo

Located in Chippewa County, the city of Montevideo has utilized four HMGP grants to acquire 131 properties. The City had a three-tiered goal: 1) eliminating health and safety issues associated with flood damaged structures, 2) eliminating problems with flooded sanitary sewer systems, and 3) permanently eliminating the need for costly disaster interventions. That goal came to fruition during the 2009 flood. The sixth highest flood proved to be simply a minor inconvenience to the City and its residents. There was no health and safety issue, no flooded sanitary sewer systems, and no costly disaster intervention. The water simply came and went without much concern.

Read the full report from FEMA

Austin Pre-Disaster Mitigation Saves Homes

The city of Austin utilized Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant funds to acquire 15 homes in the Wildwood Park neighborhood along the Cedar River. This area had flooded six times between 1978 and 2004, and in June of 2008 the area was flooded, but no properties were damaged.

 Read the full report from FEMA

Ramsey Park Swayback Bridge Preservation

In response to the flooding of spring 2010, (DR-1900-MN), the FEMA Environmental and Historical Preservation Team developed a video on the restoration of the historic Ramsey Park Swayback Bridge in Redwood Falls, Redwood County, Minnesota. As a WPA project built in 1938, it was placed on the Historic Register in 1980. Over the Redwood River, the unique bridge was built to allow flow over it during high flow seasons, but it was damaged due to ice chunks and tree debris. 

Watch the Ramsey Park Swayback Bridge Restoration Video from FEMA

Other Success Stories