Old Portage Levee Changes Flood Plain Maps

By: Zac Schultz Email
By: Zac Schultz Email

Portage: Terry Dixon has lived in his Portage home on the Wisconsin River for 12 years. "The river is at the lowest it's been all year."

Looking at the river now, it's almost laughable to think this home may be now be in the flood plain. "The highest I've seen it is about 3/4 of the way up," says Terry.

Flood plain maps from 1983 listed this neighborhood near Cook Street as high and dry, but new maps produced by FEMA have put homes in this neighborhood in the flood plain for the first time ever.

It all started in 1993, when severe floods inspired the city to fix the levee along the Wisconsin River. The levee was completed in 1998.

CIty Administrator Larry Plaster says FEMA didn't re-map the area until this year and the levee had pushed the flood plain upstream. "A good portion of the 1st ward that was previously in the flood plain is now removed. But there is a section of the city, a small section of the city that previously was not in the flood plain is now in the flood plain."

Terry doesn't know for sure if he's in or out, but he's right on the border. "I got to get up and look at the maps."

But either way, he doesn't understand why his neighbors are at risk when the area behind the levee is not. "If you stand out on my bank and look towards the levee which you can see from my backyard, we're at the same level if not a little higher than they are down there. I don't think we should fall into the flood plain here."

Being in the flood plain means a bank will require flood insurance to get a home loan. That won't affect current occupants, but new owners will need the insurance. "It could be another $600 to a $1,000 a year. For a lot of people that squeezes on their budget," says Terry.

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