Flooding halts rail service to area co-ops, others

LAKE CRYSTAL — Floods in the Missouri River Valley are reducing rail service to much of south central Minnesota.

Jeff Spence, vice president of grain operations at Crystal Valley Co-op, said they haven’t been able to get Union Pacific cars to many of their locations.

“The UP has been struggling to bring trains up. Some of the corridors, especially Omaha and Sioux City corridors, have been under water. On the west side of our area, our Madelia location can’t even get a train.”

He said trains of grain that are leaving Minnesota have to take a different route to the west coast and Mexico, heading out of western Nebraska because eastern Nebraska and Iowa are seeing flooding.

Spence said that so far the train shortage hasn’t had much affect on the grain markets. The problems have driven up the cost of shipping via rail for those who can get trains, but Spence said the costs are starting to come down again.

He said that this time of year there isn’t a lot of grain being delivered by farmers to co-ops, ethanol plants or feed mills. “That will continue through the planting season. As farmers get out to plant they won’t be delivering (grain).”

Trains Magazine reported last week that Union Pacific and BNSF Railway were halting trains and assessing damage to hundreds of miles of rail lines threatened or damaged by rising flood waters in the Missouri River valley.

BNSF reports that much of its mainline trackage in South Dakota were out of service, along with its main line from Alliance to Omaha, Neb.

The forecast calls for 1-2 inches of rain in the Omaha area later this week.

Highway 22 bridge safe

St. Peter officials are telling residents that National Weather Service advisories saying the Highway 22 bridge could be closed because of flooding are erroneous.

Police Chief Matt Peters said the NWS just recently linked to a river level gauge at the 22 bridge, but it is not their gauge and they are using outdated information in their advisories.

“Their website doesn’t have historical data because so many elevations have changed.” The gauge NWS is linking to is one jointly operated by the DNR and Nicollet and Le Sueur counties.

The Highway 22 bridge and road were replaced and moved higher several years ago.

Peters said they do not anticipate the 22 bridge will close. The Highway 99 bridge in St. Peter remains closed.

Peters said they plan to meet with NWS officials at some point to get updated information to them.

River levels

The Minnesota River at Mankato was at 25 feet Tuesday. It is to drop slowly over the week, with the level predicted to be 24.1 feet by Monday night.

At Henderson, the Minnesota River was at 737.6 feet above sea level Tuesday and is to fall less than one foot in the coming week, down to 736.8 by Monday. That means three of the four roads into Henderson will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

At New Ulm the Minnesota River was 805.5 Tuesday and was to rise to 808.5 by Tuesday evening. If the river in New Ulm gets to 809.5 feet a main artery over the river into the city — Highway 37 — would have to be closed. The road runs from Highway 14 past Hy-Vee into town.

The Cottonwood River at New Ulm is falling rapidly. It was at 17 feet Tuesday and is to be at 12 feet by Monday.