Wadena helps Duluth recover
Wadena city and county workers know disaster recovery, and some of their advice could help Duluth and other northeast Minnesota and northern Wisconsin communities as they deal with the aftermath of recent flooding.
In particular, debris management is an issue faced by both tornado recovery and flood recovery.
Mike Hanan of Wadena County Solid Waste spoke with Duluth's city administrator about the process of setting up a Temporary Debris Management Site, as well as interacting with FEMA, Homeland Security and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency during the disaster recovery process.
Hanan and Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden agree Duluth needs to establish a system to handle debris.
"At the point that I talked to him last Friday, they've come to the realization that they were going to have to identify a place to do that," Hanan said. "They were just trying to figure out how to go about identifying a piece of property, how much space they may need, how to go about getting approval."
Hanan was the overseer of Wadena's Temporary Debris Management Site, set up the day after the June 17, 2010 tornado near the old airport.
"The city owns the land. The county agreed to manage the site operations, and we accepted debris from residential people as well as commercial," he said.
Different types of debris were sorted: tree debris, demolition debris, concrete, metal, shingles and other items.
Debris was collected in huge piles through October 2010, and jobs related to processing and removing debris in Wadena were bid out in winter 2011. The site was cleaned up and seeded in October 2011.
With that experience, Hanan said the county is there for Duluth.
"What we left it at is that Wadena County got a lot of help from others, and that we were here to help them if they needed anything," he said.
Wolden and City Administrator Brad Swenson had a conference call Monday, along with Roseau, Minn. officials who experienced earlier flood recovery, to pass along advice to Duluth officials.
"We are relaying on information that worked well for us in a disaster," Wolden said.
Wolden also contacted Duluth Mayor Don Ness about the process of getting a disaster declaration.
The League of Minnesota Cities conference happened to be scheduled in Duluth June 21-22, and Wolden, Swenson and Councilman Toby Pierce were among Wadena residents in the area during the flooding.
Wolden said he drove around the city June 20 before the official conference start.
"I saw streets that looked like basically earthquakes had hit them," Wolden said. "The lake was like a brown muck for at least a mile out."
Swenson said they were in the lower part of the city away from the main flooding area, but they could see downhill washouts.
Swenson has a daughter in Cloquet, Minn., although her home was not directly affected by the tornado. He added that smaller towns surrounding Duluth were also hit hard.