Minnesota's Rapidan Dam on Brink of Collapse After Blue Earth River Flooding

The Minnesota Rapidan Dam, located 85 miles southwest of Minneapolis, has been declared in "imminent failure condition" due to the recent flooding caused by the Blue Earth River.

The dam's west abutment has experienced a partial failure, with no plans for mass evacuation. Around 600 consumers receive electricity from the dam via an Xcel Energy substation that washed away early on Monday. Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz stated that the state has received around eighteen inches of rain in the previous three weeks, which has saturated the land and left the water with nowhere to go. He said there could be more rain to come.

The county is responsible for overseeing the 1910 energy source, the Rapidan Dam, which has sustained substantial damage from repeated floods over the course of more than a century. The dam would need to be repaired or rebuilt, both of which would be expensive, according to a 2021 assessment. Doing nothing would pose a tremendous liability and a public safety concern. It would take four years to repair the dam, with three devoted to planning and design. Removing the old dam and restoring the river would take ten years.

The county is considering input from the community as it chooses what to do. The damage to the dam has limited its capacity to produce hydroelectricity, so last year Blue Earth County announced that it has started the process of releasing its license exemption under the federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Upon approval, the state Department of Natural Resources would take command of the dam.


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