Last Updated: 09/20/2021

Latest Update 

9/20/2021 Update: 
The Sept. 16, 2021 Public Information Meeting Recording is now available.
Sept. 16, 2021 Public Information Meeting PowerPoint Presentation 

Project Overview

Starkweather creek with native vegetation in full bloom.   Photo taken from the starkweather creek path bridge near Darbo Drive
Photo taken from the Starkweather Creek path bridge near Darbo Drive

The City of Madison hired a consultant (Stantec, Inc.) to conduct advanced watershed modeling and planning services for the Starkweather Creek and Olbrich Gardens Watersheds in the City of Madison, WI. This is the largest watershed study area in the City, and in some cases, the most complex.

The beginning of the process is to create a computer model that represents the existing flooding conditions in the watershed.  Once the computer model is created and verified, then the consultant will begin develop actionable mitigation measures to meet the City’s targets of reducing damages associated with flooding events, prioritizing for flood mitigation projects, and providing enough guidance to budget for the construction of projects identified in the watershed plans.

  • In Phase 1 the team will be developing a model conducting an analysis of existing conditions and preparing conceptual level mitigation alternatives.
  • In Phase 2 the team will cover more detailed modeling of preferred mitigation measures and cost-benefit and design feasibility analyses.
  • In Phase 3 the team will cover final modeling, mitigation alternative refinement and report documentation.

For more information please see the Flash Flooding Story Map *Note: Please view the story map using Firefox or Google Chrome browsers. Story maps are not viewable with Internet Explorer

Starkweather Creek watershed extends from the airport to Olbrich Park and as far east as Reiner Road.  Olbrich Garden watershed is a smaller watershed next to Lake Monona just south of Starkweather Creek Watershed.
Starkweather Creek and Olbrich Gardens Watersheds

Project Summary

The City of Madison, like many communities, has seen a recent increase in extreme flood events. This increase has occurred most notably in Madison since 2016, when a large and intense rain event in late July caused extensive flooding of public and private property on Madison’s west side. Large events in July 2017 and June 2018 caused similar flooding, again largely focused on Madison’s west side.

On August 20, 2018, Dane County experienced an unusual precipitation event that caused flooding in excess of that seen in any of the prior events mentioned. Rain gages monitoring that event registered between 3-4” of precipitation on Madison’s east side and 8-10” of precipitation on its west side over (approximately) a 12-hr period. Many of Madison’s west side neighborhoods experienced flash flooding, resulting in millions of dollars in property damage.

In response to the damage incurred due to recent extreme rainfall events, as well as the likely increasing frequency of such events due to global climate change, the Madison Common Council authorized the City of Madison Engineering Division (City Engineering) to develop watershed models and plans for watersheds of greatest concern in the Madison area.

Rain and Runoff Monitoring

As part of the watershed study process, the City (in coordination with the United States Geological Survey (USGS)) has installed rain gages and runoff depth and flow gages in select locations in the watershed.  These gages measure the depth of rain or runoff during a storm event.  The information is collected and then used to verify the computer model's results.  The two photos below show an example of the gages.

Rain Gauge measures the rainfall at Eken Park
Rain Gauge measures the rainfall at Eken Park.


Level logger measures the level of the water in Starkweather Creek when it rains.
Level logger measures the level of the water in Starkweather Creek when it rains near Union Street

Project Schedule

The study is expected to take 20 months to complete. The first activities will include numerous data and information collection and development of the public involvement plan.

Project schedule timeline for watershed study.  Study started in Spring 2021.  The first Public Information Meeting is in later summer 2021, the second is in the Spring of 2022, and the third is in the fall of 2022.  The study will be complete around the end of 2022.
Starkweather Creek/Olbrich Gardens Watershed Study Timeline

Public Involvement 

There are a number of points of contact during this project where the public is encouraged to give feedback as part of public information meetings and public hearings. Estimated dates are indicated below:

  • Public Information Meeting No. 1: Late Summer 2021 - Sept.16, 2021
  • Focus Groups Round No. 1: Fall/Winter 2021
  • Public Information Meeting No. 2: Spring 2022
  • Focus Groups Round 2: Summer 2022
  • Public Information Meeting No. 3: Fall 2022

Public Information Meetings

If you are interested in attending a public information meeting to find out what is happening with the watershed study and provide feedback, there are many ways to be notified. You can do one or all of the following:

  • Complete the survey below
  • Be on the look-out for the postcard announcing each meeting
  • Check the project website 

The public information meetings will be virtual meetings for all residents living in the watershed. City Engineering will share information on the progress of the study and ask for feedback.

Sept. 16, 2021 Public Information Meeting Recording

Sept. 16, 2021 Public Information Meeting PowerPoint Presentation

Focus Groups/Stakeholder Meetings 

The Focus Groups and Stakeholder Meetings will be meetings for a subset of the residents in the watershed and could be for a neighborhood, a friend's group, a cultural/community organization, etc.  

The purpose of the Focus Group and Stakeholder Meetings is to find out more in-depth information from interested residents in the watershed.Assuming COVID-19 guidelines allow, the meetings will be held in person, at a location suggested by the Focus Group/Stakeholder leader(s).

If you are interested in attending a focus group or stakeholder meeting to discuss the future of the watershed, please take the survey below.

Take Our Survey!

We’d love to hear from you on how you would like the City and project team to engage with you on the Starkweather Creek and Olbrich Gardens Watershed Study.
Public Engagement Survey

Additional Resources

If you have questions, or are looking for additional information, please see the resources below:

Report Flooding

If anyone has experienced flooding, and is willing to share with the City, please report it on the City's website. Even if a homeowner reported flooding to 2-1-1, FEMA, or a City official, the City needs standardized information to create stormwater models that show existing flooding conditions. The flood data helps the City prioritize different flood projects and future watershed studies. Please report any flooding you’ve experienced.