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Saturday, October 16, 2021
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Last summer's rainstorms brought record-high lake levels and catastrophic damage to parts of the region. Now, the county is preparing for another summer of floods.

Community looks to past floods, prepares for future

Community leaders looking to stave off the impacts of future lake level rises met with the authors behind an analysis of last year's floods at the Dane County UW-Extension office Monday.

The Lake Levels Task Force and concerned citizens heard presentations from assistant Dane County Land and Water Resources Director John Reimer and Wisconsin Resource Engineering Division Manager Jeremy Balousek, who contributed to the report. 

In his presentation, Reimer outlined possible ways of altering waterways around Madison to reduce water levels and increase flow through the chain of lakes. 

Reimer and the technical committee modeled several mitigation and adaptation strategies, like lowering the lakes by a foot, maintaining their current levels or combinations of pumping and dredging to enhance flow.

The scenarios were modeled using data collected from the watershed, and generated in collaboration between city and UW-Madison engineers and hydrologists

“We’re thinking, what can we do for the community to provide a tool that’s going to help us answer questions in the future?” Reimer said. “How can we use these tools to help address flooding?”

The technical committee also paused to acknowledge that what happens on land impacts lake’s flooding. 

UW-Madison professor and report contributor Dick Lathrop emphasized the importance of getting water out of the lakes before additional adaptation measures are put in place. 

Balousek stressed that improving water retention is critical to keeping the lakes at a stable level. He discussed implementing policies that would promote sound development practices and spoke out against recent legislation that impedes those efforts. 

The Lakes and Watersheds Committee will meet five more times this spring before it presents policy recommendations to the county board. In the meantime, it is welcoming all comments and questions regarding its process on its website.

“The Madison area lakes are the most studied lakes in the world,” said Lakes and Watershed Committee Chair Pam Porter. “[Students] put the Wisconsin Idea into action by submitting comments and looking at the big ideas.” 

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