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Dane County looks back on flooding, plans for future

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi on Monday listed various steps local officials are taking to prevent the recurrence of floods like the one that inflicted $154 million worth of damage on the county a year ago while also  preparing homeowners for future dangers.

Responding to the waters that were unleashed last year after 15 inches of rain fell on parts of the county, local officials set aside $18 million in Dane County’s 2019 budget for flood prevention. So far, that money has been used to:

  • Buy 160 acres in the Lake Mendota watershed that otherwise would have been developed in a way that would most likely have given rainwater fewer places to seep into the ground,
  • Draw up a five-year plan calling for the removal of sediment from the bottom of the Yahara River, along stretch running from Monona to Waubesa, as well as the bottom of nearby lakes,
  • Establish a $1 million to help local governments rebuild and repair public property damaged by floods, and
  • Buy additional sand-bagging machines, among other things.

Parisi said the effects of the flooding last year continue to be felt. For instance, nearly one out of every 10 acres of Dane County cropland went unplanted this year because floodwaters had yet to fully recede. All told, nearly 32,000 acres of farmland were not planted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Parisi said 917 Dane County households have so far received approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $3.8 million worth of claims.

Dane County officials are also reviewing damage reports from the flood last year, as well as topographical and soil-type information, to learn if some parts of the county might be more vulnerable now that local groundwater levels are higher in some places. When they discover additional risks, they will warn any homeowners who might be in harm’s way.

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