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Rochester was built on a floodplain created by the South Fork of the Zumbro River and its tributaries. The first recorded flood in Rochester was in 1855 and historic floods occurred in 1866, 1882, and 1908. Rochester’s worst flood happened in 1978. After 6.7 inches of rain, the Zumbro River reached 23 feet above flood stage, 5 people lost their lives, and over $60 million in damages were sustained.

The City of Rochester, Olmsted County, and the Olmsted Soil and Water Conservation District, with assistance of the Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), constructed a flood protection project from 1984-1995. The historic 1978 flood was used as a model during the design process so that the Flood Control Project could handle any flood event previously experienced in the community. The Flood Control Project uses a multi-faceted approach that combines water storage in reservoirs upstream, stream bank stabilization, construction of a wider and deeper channel, and levees. This has reduced flood risk in Rochester to 0.52% in any given year and has reduced the impacts of flooding downstream.

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