Maintenance crews are deploying the St. Paul Downtown Airport’s floodwall, responding to forecasts that show the Mississippi River cresting next week at 18 feet at Robert Street.

“We’re taking every precaution to stay ahead of the rising waters and keep the airport open and operating safely,” said Joe Harris, manager of the St. Paul Downtown Airport.

Crews from the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which operates the airport, have been preparing since Tuesday for the installation of the deployable portion of the floodwall, which has a length of about 3,200 feet.

The installation began Thursday, March 21 and will continue into next week. On Friday, after reviewing the latest forecasts for the river’s crest, airport officials will decide whether to extend the floodwall to its full length across the southeast end of runway 14/32.

That section of floodwall would shorten the 6,491-foot runway by about 1,150 feet, but the runway would remain in operation after the wall is installed.

Two shorter runways at the airport have already been closed to allow crews to stage materials for the deployable floodwall. Other taxiways will be closed as work progresses.

The MAC crews’ initial work this week will include erecting the floodwall to about 75 percent of its maximum height, based on current flood forecasts. Additional height could be added later if necessary.

The floodwall’s maximum height is 8.5 feet.

The airport will remain open during the floodwall installation and services at the terminal building – including Holman’s Table restaurant and bar – will not be affected.

The St. Paul Downtown Airport is an important aviation hub, serving as a base for 90 aircraft. In 2018, the airport handled 40,116 takeoffs and landings.

The full flood protection system at the St. Paul Downtown Airport includes permanent sheet piles and an earthen levy in addition to the removable wall. Together, the total length of the dike’s various sections is 1.8 miles.

The floodwall was developed in 2008 to maintain airport operations during flood events. This is the fifth time the wall has been deployed.