Fixing flood damage in Minnehaha County


This years flooding brought a lot of damages to roads, bridges, and culverts.
One of the organizations in charge of fixing flood damage is the Minnehaha County Highway Department.

Whether it be in a snowstorm, flood, or a warm summer day, the Minnehaha County Highway Department is hard at work. Today it’s repairs from this year’s flooding.

“We’re fixing what the water washed out around and underneath the culverts. We dig out what was there, or what was left that was there. Re-dig it out, repack it, put new material in, reinforce it,” Mike Mayer with the Minnehaha Highway Department said. said.

And what may seem like something so minimal actually makes a huge impact.

“Because if you don’t repair them and put re-enforcements in, if it does ever flow again like it did in the spring this year, it will erode it even worse,” Mayer said.

The crew is still fixing all of the culverts, but more keep popping up.

“We’re finding a few more everyday it seems like,” Mike Mayer said.

Bridges are also on the to do list.

“Repairing bridge decks and abutments and underneath, ya know, same thing with the rock and all that for erosion control,” Mayer said.

But that bridge work can be a bit more extensive.

“Bridges in the United States are generally inspected every two years and that’s a federal mandate that we follow to make sure that the bridges remain in good repair and they’re in good condition. As part of that two-year inspection, we receive a list of maintenance items that should be completed on that bridge before its next inspection cycle,” Highway Superintendent DJ Buthe said.

And the highway department makes it a priority to preserve the bridge rather than replace it.

“We do pretty much anything and everything. The system of the bridge itself we’ll repair just to preserve it, make sure it lasts as long as possible because its a lot easier and cheaper to preserve it than it is to replace it,” Buthe said.

And with 195 bridges in Minnehaha county, that’s a lot of work.

“Every year we inspect about half of those so we’ll inspect about 100 bridges every single year. And then, depending on what we receive back from the maintenance inspections from the previous year that will determine how many bridges we get out and do maintenance on the following year,” DJ Buthe said.

This year, every bridge will have light maintenance work.

“Light repair is something that we can send one or two guys out on a bridge, and maybe there’s a sign that got knocked over or a piece of railing that is falling off or something like that. That might cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 and it might take just a morning or an afternoon,” Buthe said.

But 20 of them will require more than that.

“And when we’re talking heavy repair that can go anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars and it could last anywhere from a couple days to a month,” Buthe said.

A lot of estimation goes into figuring out how much work needs to be done.

“We look at the bridge deck and we look at the superstructure and we look at the substructure and we look at the approach roadway into that bridge. And we evaluate what condition it’s in we’ll take measure of any deformities that we find,” Buthe said.

For the bridges in Minnehaha County, some are getting a bit up there in age.

“In our county the average age of the bridges that we have is 38 years old. Typically the bridges that we have that are older on our system were designed to last about 50 years so we got about 55 bridges that are older than 55 years old and of those 55 bridges the average age is over 70 years old,” Buthe said.

And when bridges do get a little worse for wear, they’re replaced.

“We might spend anywhere from a million and a half to $3 million on bridge replacements and then about a million dollars or so on bridge preservation and road preservation work that’s related to bridges,” Buthe said.

Whether it’s a bridge or a culvert, the Minnehaha County Highway Department will fix it if you call it in.

“We’ll come out and take a look at it and get the repairs done to it,”Mayer said.

This year the Minnehaha County Highway Department is also celebrating 100 years.

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