Nicollet County Road 12

A section of Nicollet County Road 12 north of Courtland has been submerged underwater for more than two years.

COURTLAND — A plan to reconstruct a section of Nicollet County Road 12 north of Courtland will begin mid-August. That includes a section that will be raised about 8 feet to prevent flooding.

Since 2018, residents north of the area have had to take a five-mile detour around the flooded road via County Road 21 to reach Courtland.

“It’s been underwater for over two years,” said Nicollet County Commissioner John Luepke, who lives less than a mile north of the flooded road. “Maybe 500 feet or so of road is blocked.”

The road drops in elevation as it passes by Kuester’s pond, part of a wetland and wildlife management area run by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It began flooding in the 1990s. Luepke said drivers just drove through the water then, and the county did just enough to get the roadway out of the water. He said there hadn’t been any significant flooding again until 2018.

Nicollet County Public Works Director Seth Greenwood said the water has reached a depth of nearly 4 feet at times due to heavy rainfall.

Leupke said the county purchased a stretch of land on both sides of the road from the DNR and private landowners to expand the road’s width from 84 feet to 120 feet.

“The pavement itself is in really good shape for being there for 60 years, but the road ditches are a hazard and the shoulders are very narrow, so it is kind of a safety thing,” Leupke said.

Greenwood said the more than 2 miles of Country Road 12 to be reconstructed starts 500 feet north of the intersection with County Road 21 to about half a mile north of Highway 14, which the Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to expand to four lanes as early as 2021.

Because the pond doesn’t have an outlet for excess rainwater, county officials considered building a bridge or diverting the water to a stream less than a mile away to create a permanent outlet, but Greenwood said those approaches would have been either too costly or more time-consuming.

Even so, because of soft and compressible soil underneath, workers will have to pile on crushed rock and other materials to raise the road in stages to allow time for the rock to settle.

“When you’re building on poor soils, you can’t load it with that full weight immediately. We have to do that in staged construction,” Greenwood said. “We’ll put that material in and monitor the soil pour pressure and settlement rate. When we see the grade stabilize, we’ll come in and put another 1-2 feet of material in.”

A waiting period between each stage could be as short as two weeks in between fill-ins to up to six weeks for the rock and material to settle.

“We’ll be laying out this geogrid type material out first and then the contractor will place crushed rock over that and continue to fill it until we get up and over the water,” Greenwood said.

The county awarded the contract to Mathiowetz Construction, a Sleepy Eye-based company, at an estimated cost of $5,995,000. The highest bidder asked for over $8 million.

“They’re about as local as you can get for a major contractor,” Luepke said.

A combination of government money will fund the project, including $1.2 million in federal funding, $1.5. million in state-aid disaster funding and $800,000 in state park road funding because of the road’s adjacency to the wildlife management areas. State aid road funding and construction costs distributed to the county will cover the remainder of the cost.

Greenwood said the project should be completed between June and October of 2021.

Dan Greenwood is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at dgreenwood@mankatofreepress.com

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