Mission Creek: Flood Risk Reduction and Streambank Restoration

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Courtesy of LimnoTech Inc.

On June 19th, 2012, the residents of Duluth, Minnesota experienced a storm event for the record books. Over the course of 24 hours, approximately 9 inches of rain pummeled the landscape, causing massive floods and landslides throughout the city. As a result, Duluth’s infrastructure and natural resources were severely damaged, notably miles of designated trout streams. In fact, the floods were so severe in parts, the polar bear at the Lake Superior Zoo was able to get out of its exhibit and according to staff, stalk the zookeepers. Even the seal was able to ridethe currents out onto Grand Avenue and make its way towards downtown. Large woody debris carried downstream by the high flows became bound up on culverts,which, coupled with the deposition of eroded bank material, exacerbated flooding in residential areas, leading Duluth to bedeclared a Presidential Disaster Area.

Mission Creek was among the hardest hit trout streams in the City. Mission Creek flows through the Fond du Lac neighborhood located in West Duluth. A notable structure on the creek is a large debris catcher located roughly 1 river mile upstream of the Trunk Highway 23 (TH- 23) bridge. This structure spans the width of the stream, and serves to keep large woody debris from traveling downstream. In fact, this structure did its job so well, the sheer amount of debris bound up on the completely blocked the existing channel and acted as a 10-foot high dam. With nowhere to flow, Mission Creek simply carved a new flow path – consuming a favorite hiking trail as it coursed violently downstream, exemplifying the absolute destructive power water can have.

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