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Dane County Executive Proposes $18M For Flood Recovery, Preparedness

Budget Proposal Comes Amidst Criticism Over Lake Levels From Madison Mayor Paul Soglin

Flood water seeps across East Johnson Street in Madison
Flood water seeps across East Johnson Street in Madison on Friday Aug. 24, 2018. Jenny Peek/WPR

Dane County got slammed with heavy rains and widespread flooding last month, which officials now plan to address through initiatives totaling just over $18 million in next year’s budget.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi introduced his executive budget proposal on Tuesday, which he calls “comprehensive.”

The appropriations apply toward four broad goals: bettering water flow management, aiding flood recovery, promoting natural wetlands and reducing runoff, and improving preparedness and emergency response.

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Parisi said these steps should help avert future flooding problems.

“Right now, if it rains 2 inches, it takes that 2 inches of water two weeks to make it through the system,” said Parisi. “So, we all benefit the most if we can keep that water moving through the system so it doesn’t back up.”

To that end, the proposal includes funds for analyzing choke points along the Yahara River, as well as purchasing two more weed harvesters.

“We need to be a resilient county when we’re faced with the adverse conditions of heavy rains,” said Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan.

One way to do that, she said, “is to make sure we’re slowing water as it goes into the lakes and speeding it up once it gets into the lakes and getting out of the system quickly.”

The big-ticket items in the major categories include $2.5 million for analyzing river “pinch points”; a $1 million matching grant for park and trail repair; $9 million for acquiring land to diminish storm water runoff; and $110,000 for various response infrastructure such as an online 911 system and emergency housing.

The plan also mentions $75,000 for modeling of “various lake level scenarios,” which should provide insight into “how best to manage lake levels given an increased frequency of heavy rains.”

A day before the proposal became public, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin sent a letter to the city’s Common Council which criticized Dane County’s “political leadership,” including Parisi, for keeping local lake levels high.

The Dane County Board will hold public hearings on the proposal in October and vote on a final budget mid-November.