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District 19

Alder Keith Furman

Image of Alder Keith Furman,
Council President

Alder Keith Furman,
Council President

Contact Information

Council Office

Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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District 19 Blog

Mayor Soglin Statement on Recent Rain and Flooding (9-24-2018)

September 25, 2018 11:04 AM

I wanted to share a memo sent to the Madison Common Council yesterday from the Mayor. It's a bit colorful, but does a good job explaining the current situation.

-Keith F

September 24, 2018

From: Paul R. Soglin

To: Madison Common Council

Re: Aftermath of August 20, 2018 flooding

******Because of the tragic shooting in Middleton on Wednesday, our press conference updating the flooding situation received little coverage. I hope this will provide valuable until the scheduled City Council briefing on October 2, 2018.******

Downpour of August 20, 2018:

While it was a single storm, we incurred two separate physical events that evening. They were independent of each other. While one might have been avoided, the other could not.

Lake Mendota levels: Allowable summer minimum 849.60 Feet. Summer maximum: 850.10. Level the night of August 20: 851.01 level compared to maximum: 851.01-850.10= .91 feet, almost one foot.

Lowering Lake Mendota is dependent upon the level of Lake Monona. If Lake Mendota is lowered at too high a flow, the Yahara River, Lake Monona, and bodies of water further south will flood. Imagine draining one very large bath tub into an already filled bath tub.

East Side: East of Square: Tenney Park, Yahara River to Lake Monona, Monona Bay, and southern shores of Lake Monona. This flooding was the result of rising Lake Mendota and the subsequent flow of water down the Yahara River and Lake Monona. At the time of the downpour, Lake Mendota was almost a foot over its legal maximum limit, and 1.4 over the minimum. We can assume that virtually all of this flooding might have been averted if the lake was maintained at the legal range.

Sand bags: With the lakes at close to record highs, and water still on some streets, there is the danger of additional flooding prompted by fresh rains. At this time we recommend that sandbags be left in place. In any case, the City of Madison has a plan for the collection and recycling of sandbags; we will keep you posted.

West Side: Within the boundaries of the city of Madison, the worst flooding was in the following areas: High Point Rd at Old Sauk Rd, University Avenue, the retention basin across from Memorial High School (between Odana, and Mineral Point Rd.), McKenna Blvd. Other far west areas ranging from Black Hawk to the Deming Way Area in Middleton., and another dozen areas most much smaller. This flooding was the result of flash flooding and was not related to the level of Lake Mendota. Even if Lake Mendota was at its appropriate level, this flooding would have occurred.

All of these areas were flooded because the storm sewers are not designed to handle the storm flows from an event that was in excess of a 500-year storm. Some of these areas, such as University Avenue and McKenna Blvd have flooded numerous times in the past.

What the city of Madison will do: where we have already designed recommendations for improvement we will move forward although some modification will have to be made which will delay implementation. For example, the 2019 Capital Budget includes improvements for the McKenna Blvd area. These improvements will be examined and reviewed for their ability to handle greater capacity than a 100-year rain event.

We will continue with improvements for University Avenue although we will also revisit some previously rejected plans with Shorewood that proposed a storm sewer outlet in that community under Blackhawk Country Club.

The Blackhawk, Odana-Mineral Point, and a dozen other areas that flooded for the first time will be examined and recommendations made to handle rains of the capacity we experienced on August 20, 2018.

The cost of correcting these problems will be extraordinary. We are not hopeful of obtaining State of Wisconsin or federal government assistance to make corrections although we will explore every avenue. Since we have limited borrowing capacity, I am going to examine the possibility of additional impervious surface fees to assist in paying for this infrastructure.

I want to note that some have called for requirements of more pervious surfaces in the future. While this will be environmentally beneficial when 1-2 inch rains occur, it will not address the demands and make little difference in the short term for the kind of event we experienced August 20th.

Yahara Lakes Advisory Group

In 2012 the Yahara Lakes Advisory Group, a committee of Governor Scott Walker's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) met and made a series of recommendations regarding lake levels. There were 22 committee members, two representing the city of Madison. Three represented marinas. Seven others represented specific communities on the lake shore lines. Five others represented special interest groups. This committee refused to recommend lowering Lake Mendota to summer maximum of 849.6

Recently several county and state leaders recommended reconvening a similar body. I oppose doing so, at this time, for three reasons.

  1. We do not have 'clean hands.' Dane County did not maintain Lake Mendota levels at the already allowed minimum, let alone under the maximum.
  2. If another YLAG is convened the 250,000 people in the city of Madison should not receive less representation than three marinas or that of five communities with a fraction of our population.
  3. Before another YLAG is convened, engineers form the city of Madison, Dane County and the private sector who understand the nature of the flooding should convene and bring back a unified position based on solid data to the YLAG. Most of this data is already collected and known.

How to proceed:

  1. Get Lake Mendota down to the allowable legal minimum elevation. There must be immediate acknowledgment and corrective action by Dane County officials. That means removing all obstructions at the southern end of Lake Monona.
  2. Once Lake Monona is at its lowest allowable summer level, proceeding with a democratically formed YLAG and using the already existing engineering data, adopt the 2012 recommendation to lower the lake to a summer maximum of 849.6
  3. Further convene the study group to determine the optimal level for Lake Mendota considering the impact on flooding, restoration of beaches, and wetland preservation; redesign the Mud Lake rail trestle which acts as a dam and reconsider the dam in Stoughton.

Constituents expressed concern to me that Dane County political leadership does not acknowledge that the lakes were too high, above the legal limit and that they are deflecting criticism placing blame on the city for the flooding. While this may be true I am confident that the county will do the right thing if the public maintains pressure and demands action.

Clearly County Executive Parisi's suggestion in last Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal, that the city cap its storm sewers was gibberish engineering nonsense. Capped storm sewers only work with a pump system that is grossly expensive and ridiculous since it would redirect the water back into the lakes. This incredibly unfashionable idea should be put on the shelf with outdated science such as that the earth is flat, alchemy can turn lead into gold, and Donald Trump's brain.

The county government has a history of responding to public pressure and taking corrective action without acknowledging past mistakes. I suggest we be happy with them making the right decisions.

Tags: stormwater

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