The 2019 Dane County budget recognizes that all units of government – the state, cities, villages, towns, and the county – have opportunities to invest in strategies that reduce risk and improve preparedness in the event of future flash floods and high water events. We are continuing work to rebuild and restore our hardest hit communities. In the same way we came together for weeks as neighbors helping neighbors, we will work together to recover and rebuild and be ever more resilient to the forces of nature. The budget has four specific areas of new funding directly related to flooding:
To support the important community conversation into the New Year about how to best manage lake levels given the increased frequency of heavy rain events, the budget includes $75,000 to conduct real-time modeling of the benefits and considerations for various lake level scenarios.
$1 million is allocated in the budget for a park and trail flood repair matching grant fund and a $500,000 streambank restoration fund. Black Earth Creek, Pheasant Branch Creek, the Sugar River, and other gently flowing waterways were turned into raging rapids by the historic rains of August 2018. Restoring damage to these streambanks will reduce future erosion and promote healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.
The 2019 county budget includes new ways to improve stormwater storage and methods to keep rain on the land instead of running off. Wetlands are Mother Nature’s best remedy for reducing the devastation caused by flooding. The budget includes $200,000 to begin analyzing a restoration of the Door Creek wetlands that were inundated with water through the summer.
A brand new Dane County Conservation Reserve Program will be created with the budget to help convert lands at high risk into prairies and grasses that are more able to hold soil and reduce water run-off. Modeled after the once popular Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) administered by the federal government, this brand new, $750,000 county program will pay farmers and property owners to convert lands to permanent cover to address resource concerns such as erosion. Furthermore, the budget includes $8-million for potential conservation acquisitions with a similar goal – permanently securing properties that improve the county’s ability to reduce stormwater run-off and improve water quality.
The increased frequency of flash flooding events in this quickly growing, more urbanized area means county government needs to enhance its emergency response capabilities. County government issued over 400,000 sandbags and deployed two sand-bagging machines during the August 2018 rains and subsequent flooding.
The budget includes dollars to acquire two more fast-fill sand bagging machines, another 250,000 sandbags, large pumps to move volumes of water off roads and other critical infrastructure, and portable generators that can keep services needed in an emergency going even if power is out. Purchasing larger flood barriers and a high capacity pump can help us re-open roads in a timelier fashion. We also need to look at county highways more prone to flooding and, when the time comes to upgrade them, we should consider raising their elevation.
Included in the budget is $200,000 to raise Highway W in the Town of Christiana, which was underwater on separate occasions in Summer 2018. $80,000 is also allocated for the Sheriff to purchase a new airboat to help with high water rescues. This watercraft proved invaluable when Black Earth Creek inundated the Village of Mazomanie, requiring a number of residents to be evacuated in short order by boat.
To ensure a seamless public safety response, the budget also includes funds for a new web-based phone communication system to assist the 911 Center. Used during Hurricane Harvey, this system ensures that when 911 lines are full of callers seeking help, those with an emergency can report it in real time through a website that will directly alert the Dane County 911 Center. The budget also includes $25,000 for the county to help with emergency housing for those with special needs who need to be moved from harm’s way in a short time frame.