High water means caution is required
Not too far down the road, folks over in Hastings are watching the Mississippi River to see if reaches flood level and spills over the banks. Here in Farmington, though, the Vermillion River is already over the banks in some areas. That's just a common sign of spring around these parts.
That's not to say residents shouldn't be careful when they visit Rambling River Park or try to walk the trails through downtown. The river is high, and it's flowing at a pretty steady pace. Still, at this time, city of Farmington engineer Kevin Schorzman isn't too concerned about the Vermillion River.
"You can sort of expect this stuff at this time of the year," he said.
Over the years, he said, the city of Farmington has made some adjustments to its storm water runoff. Part of that meant replacing the bridges on Elm Street and Highway 3 so there's more room for the river to flow.
The Mississippi, he said, runs pretty much along an established ravine, almost a canyon. The water runs fast, but it's kept to a specific channel thanks to the steeper banks. When the flow is hindered, there's nowhere for the river water to go but up - kind of like filling a glass with water.
On the other hand, Schorzman likens the Vermillion River, particularly around Farmington, to water spilling on a floor. It spreads out. It takes up a wider area, which means the river doesn't rise as readily as the Mississippi or other rivers might.
There's been lots of planning over the years to make sure the floodplain - the areas nearest to the Vermillion - are left undeveloped, or at the very least, bordered by a park. That way, the river can spread out and is not as likely to encroach on homes along the river.
The last week of snowmelt has had an impact, Schorzman said. The Army Corps of Engineers has a monitor imbedded in a section of the Vermillion River in Empire Township. Though Schorzman isn't sure of the monitor's exact location, he checks in on a daily report linked to that monitor's readings. In little more than one week, the Vermillion River has risen significantly. On Tuesday, March 9, it was a little over two feet deep at the monitor site. On March 16, by 9 a.m., it was between 5 1/2 and six feet deep.
Schorzman spent part of Monday surveying different areas of the Vermillion River, from the point in Eureka Township where the north and south branches come together, around Rambling River Park and the Kuchera Entrance, and even a few of the tributaries that flow into the river. For the most part, the water is staying within the established channel, he said.
He did an informal check on how fast the water is flowing. Standing on the bridge at the Kuchera Entrance on Monday, he timed things as they floated from one point to the next. By his best "guesstimate," Schorzman said the river seems to be flowing at two to three feet per second.
Barring any major rain or snow event in the next few days, Schorzman expects the Vermillion River to begin naturally lowering again sometime this week. In the meantime, residents should find somewhere else to walk or play.
"There's plenty of other trails in Farmington that aren't affected by the Vermillion River that can be utilized until it gets done with what it's doing," he said. "The water is up in the park, but that's kind of why parks are where they are."