Taking stock of road damage

Repairing damage caused by July’s flooding will be a long process for Lyon County

Submitted photos After flooding washed out a culvert on July 3, Lyon County Road 7 was left in a precarious position. The spot listed as one of Lyon County’s major damage sites after the flood event. The road was closed during July, while the county did repairs (bottom of page).


The full extent of the damage that the July flood event had on Lyon County roads and bridges is something that’s taken a long time to assess. In many cases, it’s still not certain what the full costs of repairs will be, said county highway engineer Aaron VanMoer.

In a presentation to Lyon County commissioners last week, VanMoer estimated that major flood damage around the county came to a cost of around $353,000. But VanMoer said some sites have increased in the scope — and cost — of damage, as the county investigates them further.

The list of major road damage sites in Lyon County includes more than a dozen locations. The damage includes culverts or road surfaces being washed away, damage to embankments, and even damage to some wooden culvert extensions in spots along Lyon County Road 11. VanMoer outlined some of the major damage to commissioners.

A couple of the major damage sites that have already been repaired included road failures on Lyon County Road 7 a mile and a half south of Minnesota Highway 23, and on County Road 5 just south of Minnesota Highway 19. Both spots had been closed to traffic until repairs could be made.

In the case of County Road 7, VanMoer said, stormwater shot a culvert out from beneath the roadway.

“The road never fell in, but it probably could have,” VanMoer said. “We got a survey on that (site) right away.” Fortunately, he said, the county was able to get new culvert pipe in and re-open the road. He estimated the cost of the damage on County Road 7 at $35,000.

A similar problem, with much more extreme results, was reported on County Road 5. There, the road was completely washed away along with the culvert.

“This culvert was only about 10 years old,” VanMoer told commissioners. The base of the roadway was re-compacted, and the culvert and road were repaired. County Road 5 was re-opened in early August. VanMoer estimated the cost of the damage there at $60,000.

A few other damaged spots were reported on Lyon County Road 5, as well. A culvert was damaged north of Highway 19. In the city of Lynd, a failed storm sewer caused a sinkhole to form near the railroad tracks, and water undermined part of the pavement on the hill near Lynd Public School, leaving a large crack in the road surface.

In the city of Tracy, three lines of culvert where a ditch runs under County Road 29 were damaged by the flooding. VanMoer said work crews were making repairs to the site last week. He estimated the cost of the damage at $15,000. The project should qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid, he said.

Other major damage sites were reported on Lyon County Road 74 near River Road, where a culvert separated and big pieces of the road embankment washed away; on County Road 60, where a steep slope above a culvert sloughed off; and on County Road 65 and County Road 63, where the gravel road surface washed away above culverts. Of those sites, VanMoer estimated the culvert and embankment damage on County Road 74 to be most costly, at about $50,000. Repairing the slope on County Road 60 “is also going to be a challenge,” he said.

But the biggest and costliest repairs are likely needed along Lyon County Road 11 north of Tracy, VanMoer said. There are a total of five spots between Tracy and the intersection of County Road 2 where culverts have been damaged.

What makes repairing the culverts complicated, VanMoer told county commissioners, is that they’ve been extended over time, using a patchwork of different materials. In one photo he shared with commissioners, the remains of an old stone bridge had been added onto with concrete, and then extended with timber supports. Those timber supports were damaged by flooding. VanMoer estimated the cost of repairing culverts along County Road 11 at $120,000 or more.

“The question is, do we replace them with timber extensions again?” he said. A lot depends on what kind of aid funding Lyon County can get.

VanMoer said possible sources of disaster funding for Lyon County roads include funding from FEMA or the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), state disaster bonds, or the State Aid Disaster Account (SADA). FEMA and FHWA disaster funding requires federal approval, and then meeting a threshold for damage costs, he said.

SADA funding covers events where the damage exceeds 10 percent of the State Aid allotment the county receives.

“We haven’t met that threshold yet,” VanMoer told commissioners.

VanMoer said the county is continuing to work on damage sites in Lynd and on Lyon County Road 74. He said he also met with representatives from the FHWA this week about the culvert damage on County Road 11. But there are still questions about how to proceed with repairs on the wooden culverts, and whether the work can be reimbursed with aid money.

VanMoer said there’s still a lot of flood damage to Lyon County infrastructure, affecting ditches, water retention areas and driveways.

“We continue to find new things,” although a lot of the damage isn’t major, he said.