Lawmakers from across Wisconsin and Governor Tony Evers introduced a Flood Prevention and Resilience Plan this week, with support from a local legislator. The set of proposals would provide funding and other support to local communities affected by flooding, and help prepare for a future with more frequent torrential rainfall and heavy runoff.
Extreme rainstorms that have hit the St. Croix River region in recent years have caused significant damage to roads, bridges, and private property. The trend is in line with long-range forecasts for climate change.
Major storms hit the region in July 2016, when a federal disaster was declared, June 2018, and July 2018, and several other times. Highways have been closed, dams breached, bridges damaged, and homes flooded.
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Much of the region’s infrastructure was built for smaller and less intense rainfall and spring runoff. Cities and counties have been putting as much as they can toward upgrading their transportation and stormwater management systems, but local budgets are limited.
“The state needs to start leading on this issue, and these bills are an important step at giving families and communities’ peace of mind and the tools they need to not only recover and rebuild, but to prevent flood damage in the future,” said Governor Tony Evers.
Senator Patty Schachtner, who represents much of the St. Croix’s watershed in Wisconsin, from Danbury to River Falls, has introduced legislation that is part of the overall package.
Her bill would provide an additional $5 million over two years to help small communities respond to and recover from flooding. It would also decrease how much money local governments would have to contribute to receive state help, from 30 to 25 percent, and allow additional types of expenses.
“Northwestern Wisconsin is no stranger to spring flooding. This package of legislation will support our communities in their efforts to combat flooding and provide them the resources and infrastructure they need to respond to flooding disasters,” said Schachtner.
Other parts of the proposal call for the Department of Transportation to provide grants to local governments to replace highway bridges and culverts so they can handle bigger and more frequent floods, supply $10 million to help local governments manage stormwater, increase funding for road repair after floods, provide a tax deduction for flood insurance, and more.
The current flood forecast from the National Weather Service is for an elevated risk of ‘major’ flooding on the lower St. Croix this spring. The outlook for the St. Croix has somewhat improved in the past two weeks due to snow melt and little precipitation.