COUNTY BOARD EYES LAKE LEVEL POLICY
September 19, 2018
Sharon Corrigan, County Board Chair 608.333.2285
Thursday meeting to address flooding impact and causes
Responding to flooding in the Yahara Lakes watershed, the Dane County Board is meeting as a Committee of the Whole to hear from County lakes experts and find answers to questions about the Yahara watershed.
Additionally, a resolution that will be introduced at the Board Thursday calls for convening a group of experts to evaluate the situation and make policy recommendations by March 31, 2019. Those recommendations could include petitioning the state Department of Natural Resources to allow lower lake levels in the near-term and consider longer-term changes.
“Given the disastrous flooding we’ve experienced this summer, it’s obviously time to take a look at lake levels,” said County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “This resolution will set things in motion so we can make policy recommendations in the spring after receiving input from a variety of sources.”
The Dane County Board meeting begins at 7 p.m. Thursday in Room 201 of the City-County Building at 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in downtown Madison. At 6 p.m. prior to the regular meeting, the Board will receive an update on the flooding and lake level management from the Dane County Land & Water Resources Department. Officials have initially estimated damage in excess of $78 million for residents and over $37 million to businesses, with only 2 percent of those damages insured. The meeting will be broadcast via livestream and can be accessed here: http://www.cityofmadison.com/citychannel/Details.cfm?Id=6295
The county is responsible for maintaining water levels for the four major lakes in Dane County: Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa and Lake Kegonsa, mainly through operation of the Tenney Park Dam. But any permanent changes in lakes levels must be approved by the DNR. The current target range of keeping Lake Mendota water levels at 849.6 feet above sea level was set in 1979.
Supervisor Yogesh Chawla (District 6, near east Madison) said he has seen the effects of the flooding first-hand along the Yahara River and Lake Monona.
"This resolution will help Dane County bring our lakes down to their state allowed minimums in the short term,” he said. “It also provides a framework and timelines for a robust process to determine what the proper lake levels should be given a rapidly changing climate."
The resolution calls for the Land & Water Resources Department to prepare background material for the Lakes & Watershed Commission and the Environment Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee by immediately convening a technical work group that includes representation from the University of Wisconsin and other experts.
The group would evaluate conditions, model various scenarios that include predicted climate changes, identify short- and long-term recommendations to improve resiliency for future flooding events and make other recommendations that may include petitioning the DNR to change the permitted target range for lake levels.
Supervisor Chuck Erickson (District 13, near west Madison) serves on the Lakes & Watershed Commission and said he is looking for a long-term assessment of the situation.
“While lowering the lake levels is a good place to start, we need to closely review the impacts on the flow required to move water downstream and the impacts on the environment,” he said.
Also Thursday, the Board will view a presentation of "Minding the Gap: The Housing Crisis in Dane County." Produced in conjunction with the Dane County Housing Initiative (DCHI), the video documents the challenges facing those who struggle to meet monthly rents despite working full-time or receiving retirement benefits including Social Security.
According to a recent report, over 22,000 low-income households in the county pay more than 30% percent of their income in rent. Another 12,000 very low-income households pay more than 50% of their income in rent, with 2,200 of those seniors.
To help close that gap, the board will consider providing $500,000 to developer Gorman & Company to assist with the “Grand Family” affordable workforce housing project at Union Corners. Located at 2507 Winnebago St. on Madison’s east side, those units are aimed at families or seniors caring for younger children.
In addition, the Board on Thursday will consider transferring $15,000 in unused funds from the Planning & Development Department budget to the County Clerk's Office to facilitate the completion and execution of the voter ID education plan.
The goal of the campaign is to inform voters of the ID law, direct voters to the statewide helpline and/or microsite where they can get assistance or a ride to obtain an ID and promote a culture of voting.
The full meeting agenda is available at https://dane.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=572894&GUID=45B555BF-2E9D-4E39-A2DB-254B3929A171