Landslide in 2001 along West Sixth Street was triggered by low water level.

When most people look at the Red Lake River as it meanders through Crookston, they do so with a wary eye mostly because they're worried about how high it can get during the annual spring thaw, or after a whole bunch of heavy rain falls in the basin.

    But, Community Development Director Mike MacDonald cautions, the river can cause problems when it's really low, too. To wit, when the landslide along the riverbank just off West Sixth Street occurred a little more than a decade ago, he told the Times Monday, it was triggered by low water levels that caused the slope to give way.

    It's no coincidence, then, that MacDonald spent much of Monday morning inspecting the community's nearly complete system of certified levees, just to make sure that the extremely dry conditions aren't adversely affecting the levees. "I was looking for any indication of movement," he said. As he "hoped and expected," however, all of the city's levees look fine. "But isn't it something when you have to worry about a lack of water for your flood protection system?" MacDonald added.

    The Red Lake River is currently flowing at an extremely low level. In river jargon, it's currently flowing at less than 10 percent capacity. In more layman's terms, it's current depth in Crookston is around 2 1/2 feet. MacDonald said lower flows than the current data have been recorded on the river locally in the past, but he added that it "would sure be nice to get back to a normal rainfall pattern."
    The river is flowing at around 200 cubic feet per second. “That figure is way low,” said Public Works Director Pat Kelly.

    While the river's been lower before than it is now, it's been a while. Kelly arrived in Crookston in 1991, and he said Monday it's lower now than he's ever seen it, by quite a bit. "The lowest I've seen before this year was five feet or so, but it's quite a bit lower than that now," he said.