CHIPPEWA FALLS — High water levels on the Chippewa River could be a concern for those planning to attend FATFAR on Sunday in Chippewa Falls.
FATFAR, or the Frenchtown Annual Tube Float And Regatta, dates back to the mid-1970s, and while no one is 100 percent sure of the exact first event, this year is believed to be the 43rd annual float. It has been dubbed as “the world’s largest one-day tubing event.”
William “Loopy” Kleich, owner of Loopy’s Saloon & Grill & Event Dome, 10691 Highway 29, said he suspended all tube rentals at his bar on Monday.
“The water is a little high,” Kleich said Tuesday morning. “We’ll be watching it all week, and hopefully it is down by Sunday. Safety is our No. 1 concern. Right now is a waiting game.”
Most people push off from a boat landing by the city’s highway shop near the Veterans Memorial Bridge on Main Street. It generally takes about 2½ hours for tubers to reach Loopy’s or between three and six hours to reach Two Waters Bar, 2940 109th St., Lake Hallie. However, Kleich said floaters reached his tavern in 1 hour, 45 minutes on Sunday because of the quick-moving water.
“The river started moving pretty quick on Sunday, and then it rose on Monday morning,” he said.
Kleich said he hopes the event still goes off without any problems.
“We don’t own the river — we can’t tell people what to do,” Kleich said. “But if it’s not safe, we’ll advise people to not go down the river. We’ll be monitoring it daily and keep people posted.”
The new Chippewa Riverfront park on the north shore of the Chippewa River is submerged again after the recent heavy rainfall. The park also was submerged in the middle of May 2017.
Chippewa Falls Mayor Greg Hoffman wasn’t surprised or concerned when he observed the flooding Monday.
“The water always came up there, but you never saw it,” Hoffman said. “You didn’t notice it as much because of the trees. There isn’t much concern because it’s built to handle it.”
Hoffman said the good news is all the construction equipment in the park was moved out before it flooded. Crews have been installing the new amphitheater stage that is the centerpiece of the park, located near the entryway to downtown.
“The shrubbery put in there was designed to handle the water,” Hoffman said. “Each picnic table going in there has to be bolted down, so nothing can float away. The only thing it’s going to do is push (construction) back a week or two because everything will need to dry out.”
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning Monday, saying it expects moderate flooding on the Eau Claire River and minor flooding on the Chippewa River. Officials remind people to be cautious around low-lying areas near water and avoid crossing roads with standing water.
Diana Maas, spokeswoman with the state Department of Transportation, sent out an update Tuesday afternoon, saying several roads are still closed in Bayfield, Burnett and Douglas counties. She reminded drivers to not go around barricades.
As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, the Chippewa River at Grand Avenue in Eau Claire was less than a foot below flood stage. The river was expected to crest this morning in Eau Claire at about a foot above flood stage, according to city officials.
All street underpasses for both the Chippewa River and Old Abe state trails are closed. The Chippewa River Trail is also closed behind the UW-Eau Claire Fine Arts Building and near the Hobbs Ice Arena.
The band shell, tennis courts and lower levels of Owen Park are closed. The playground, boat launch and restrooms at Riverview Park are closed, as well as the low lying areas of Riverview Drive.
The pedestrian trail under Madison Street at Phoenix Park is closed.
City officials said the closures are expected to remain in effect through the weekend.