Long Prairie River water diverted to save shoreline

Motley couple first noticed erosion; feel the work is not yet finished

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

About six years ago, Tom and Robin Kramer of Motley brought an erosion problem to the attention of Morrison County and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The erosion was occurring on the Long Prairie River and it was taking the Kramers’ land.

They said the river has taken about five feet of their bank since they began noticing it.

“We called our County Commissioner, Tom Wenzel, when the ice was going out on the river and was taking part of the bank with it,” said Tom. “The erosion was moving toward the (Highway 10) bridge.”

The Long Prairie River twists and winds through south Motley, part of which runs by Tom and Robin Kramer’s home. For six years they have complained of erosion and this fall, several government agencies worked together to install rock and barbs to move the water and spring ice away from the banks and into the main channel of the river. The Kramers, though, are concerned that not enough barbs were installed. Pictured are three of the six barbs protecting the bank on the first bend of the river in Motley. The Kramers are worried the water and ice in the spring, will be pushed into their bank on the second bend of the river, pictured in the lower right.

At that same time six years ago, the Kramers were putting in a new home on their property. They said their attention was on that and not with the river. But, they did keep an eye on it.

The Kramers said DNR representatives viewed the situation at that time and said they would look into it. But, no one got back to them.

“It was when our new home was done that we noticed exposed utility cables on the river bank,” said Robin. The Kramers took pictures and sent them to Wenzel who forwarded them to Morrison County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Helen McLennan.

“Wenzel brought the issue to our attention,” said McLennan. “We worked with the Todd County Soil and Water Conservation District who held some grant funds for the river.”

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) had to be a part of the fix because the erosion was closing in on both Highway 10 and the bridge that crosses the river.

Lakewood Health Center also became involved because it owns property nearby, as does Trident Foods. Other entities involved in the project were the DNR and the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

All parties agreed to work together to restore the bank of the Long Prairie River.

“Never has a project involved more partners than this one,” said McLennan. “But it still got done within 10 months of first recognizing the enormous erosion taking place on the river bank. The project was completed Nov. 15.”

In August, Robin noticed activity by the bridge and river. There were people measuring and staking, working on a plan for the river.

Barbs, or jetties of rock, were installed into the river from the bank to push the flowing water to the center channel and away from the shoreline. The barbs were created from tons of rock, a proven way to get the job done, said McLennan.

Natural Resources Conservation Service engineers Scott Smith and Eric Larson from Fergus Falls, and Steve Girard, a technician from Little Falls, worked on the design of the river barbs used to stabilize the flow of water. Bob Nibbe and John McNamara, MnDOT engineers, also joined the group to manage the right of way process and deal with the necessary road restrictions.

Since there are no flow meters to measure the speed of the water near the area of the erosion, peak times of flow were studied to determine the number of barbs to install. The six barbs, placed at precise angles, were designed to handle maximum flow during the spring.

The barbs were also designed to not adversely impact the shoreline, which will have trees and shrubs planted in the spring.

Henry Becker, a contractor from Long Prairie, was awarded the bid and did the construction. Permits were needed from both the DNR and the Army Corps of Engineers.

While the Kramers agree the finished work will protect the shoreline and deter erosion near Highway 10, they said it does not protect the bank in all areas, especially on their property.

“When the water comes around the first bend, the bank is protected by the barbs and the rocks. But the water is then sent straight into our bank on the second turn in the river. There is no protection there,” said Robin.

The Kramers are worried they will continue to lose property plus two large oaks near the river.

“We have also seen the same type of erosion from the ice at the Motley cemetery,” said Robin. “We hope that is also taken care of soon.”

“We are thankful that the  Kramers brought this to our attention,” said McLennan. “It was a serious problem and we were fortunate we had the funds available to fix the problem so quickly.”

McLennan said that any time people see a potential problem, they should call an elected official. It may be nothing, but the call may also divert a potential disaster.

The Kramers said that during the upcoming spring thaw, they will watch the river closely and if their bank continues to erode, they will contact Morrison County again.

The Long Prairie River is 92 miles long and runs through Central Minnesota. It starts at Lake Carlos in Douglas County and spills into the Crow Wing River in Motley. It is part of the Mississippi River watershed.