NEW ULM - As 20 clay-hauling semi trucks and trailers idled on a huge clay levee next to the drought-shrunken Minnesota Friday, Goosetown residents who live in and around the 1200 block of South Front gathered and served noon dinner to Mathiowetz Construction Company truck drivers.
Bonnie Ubl did the cooking, preparing german potato salad and sloppy joes for the truckers. A decorated cake thanking them for their hard work was served for dessert.
"We're just really thankful for all the hard work Mathiowetz Construction workers are doing on this," said retired construction worker Mike Haase. "They've really been great to work with, very upright, holding weekly meetings with us. They're willing to make some adjustments for us."
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Goosetown residents, front row, left, Ruth and Robert Zanel and Mike Haase; back row, Richard and Tom Ubl stand on a 100-foot-wide clay berm being built next to the Minnesota River Friday.
Haase, who built hospitals, schools and other public buildings in his younger days, is active doing volunteer work with the New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen's Club.
He said the berm will give him more piece of mind and a higher level of comfort the next time the Minnesota River rises.
Work began in mid-August on the project forecast to be done by Halloween. Made of clay from nearby Wellner's Pit, the levee was estimated to cost about $2 million.
With a base up to 120 feet wide in some areas, the levee narrows to 12 feet wide at its top, allowing more sand bags to be added. It will be 814 feet above sea level, two feet above the 100-year flood mark, to protect against waves.
So far, 90,000 of an estimated total of 106,000 yards of clay has been hauled to the levee site, according to Mathiowetz Construction Project Manager Brett Mathiowetz.
"We'll be able to mow grass on top of it," Haase said. "We'll be a helluva lot better off when the river comes up now. I'm too old to sandbag. We're glad this is being done. They're doing a good job."
A couple years ago, Haase built a retaining wall made of paver stones in his long back yard that reaches to the river.
In the spring of 2011, with the river creeping towards the wall and his house, Haase placed a tarp held down with weights to protect the wall. He added he was willing to give up some of his view of the river in favor of a levee.
Reversing a previous vote to only provide sandbag material to residents, the New Ulm City Council approved construction of of a temporary clay levee on March 15, 2011.
The next day, despite rain, M.R. Paving & Construction began building a $300,000 temporary levee to 814 feet, three feet above the crest of 811.03 feet on April 9, 1997.
City crews had to remove the temporary levee in order to collect federal funding for the project.
The New Ulm City Council scheduled a levee assessment hearing for Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.