City of Middleton focused on Pheasant Branch Conservancy flooding repairs

Published: Aug. 22, 2019 at 4:58 PM CDT
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Bill Burns remembers driving home from work on the night of August 20, 2018.

“When I left I thought it was just a rainstorm,” Burns said. “When I came into work the next morning is when I really realized this was an unusual event and we had a lot of damage and that this was going to be a good process.”

Burns is the City of Middleton Assistant City Administrator and Finance Director and has spent the past year working to apply for funding from FEMA.

“It’s been a long year,” said Burns.

The City of Middleton identified $6.5 million dollars of public sector damage for the city.

The Pheasant Branch Conservancy and the Creek Corridor suffered over $5 million dollars’ worth of storm related damage.

One of the most significant sites of damage, the hillside just off of Park Street, has not yet received federal funding.

“The flood water just eroded and tore down the side of the hill,” said Burns. “We’re hoping to get full federal approval for this project within the next couple of months.”

In fact, the city of Middleton has not yet received any federal funding.

“We’ve learned that it’s all going to come on the backend and that the city is going to have to front the costs for the improvements,” Burns said.

The City of Middleton passed a referendum in April to help offset costs which can’t be reimbursed.

“There’s also certain projects that will not be FEMA eligible and the storm water utility will help us pay for those,” Burns said.

The Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy has taken on the challenge to help raise money.

“They’ve spearheaded fundraising efforts and raised an excess of $120 thousand dollars,” said Matt Amundson, Director of Public Lands, Recreation, & Forestry.

Parts of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy are returning to normal as walkers, runners, and cyclists are enjoying the scenic trails which were closed for some time.

“It was very disheartening and hard for a lot of our staff to see,” said Amundson.

The staff has worked tirelessly over the past few months to make repairs to the area.

“The bridges are back in place,” Amundson said. “We brought in a lot of gravel and material to try and keep [the path] as smooth and as passable as we could.”

Most of the repairs are not a long-term solution.

“Some of the temporary work’s been further damaged or required further follow up and further repair work,” he added. “It kind of becomes disheartening for the staff that you go and fix something and then two weeks later you’re back trying to repair it again.”

The City of Middleton wants to create a more permanent solution to make the area stronger to the threat of flooding.

“Right now we’re working on a master plan for the creek corridor,” Amundson said. “We’re looking at vegetation, stabilizing hillside, the trail system, the bridges and making sure that we’re making this more resilient.”

There will be public input sessions starting in September for residents to provide feedback on what they think the city should do looking toward the future.

“We know that we are going to have significant rain events and flooding,” Burns said. “We are going to be able to need to deal with that.”