Watershed studies aim to prevent future flooding in Madison

Published: Apr. 22, 2019 at 9:10 PM CDT
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The City of Madison Engineering Division is conducting watershed studies to prevent the historic flooding seen in summer 2018 from occurring again.

The city has hired Brown and Caldwell, a local consulting firm, to work on the watershed studies. The city is also hosting a series of public meetings for watershed areas that have been hit hard by flooding in the past, such as the Strickers/Mendota area, Spring Harbor, West Wingra, and Madison Pheasant Branch.

On Monday evening at the Strickers/Mendota watershed meeting, a representative from Brown and Caldwell, as well as officials with the City of Madison Engineering Division, shared the plans for the studies moving forward.

"We all know that the flooding happened last summer, but the work is far from over," said Hannah Mohelnitzky, Public Information Officer for City of Madison Engineering Division. "Our community was impacted deeply, financially, emotionally, and anybody who was impacted really wants some answers. Tonight is the first time that we're going to really open that dialogue even further when it comes to solutions."

The city is beginning with four watershed studies, anticipating additional watershed studies as well.

"The watershed studies will look at what happened, and possible solutions in our infrastructure to make sure that flooding doesn't happen again," said Mohelnitzky.

Mohelnitzky likened the flooding to traffic on a busy road - when there are too many cars attempting to enter one pathway heading the same direction, backups and traffic occur. Mohelnitzky said that is similar to what happened with the high volume of rain attempting to flow through the drainage system in summer 2018.

The next steps of the studies include creating drainage models using computer models and installing equipment to measure rainfall, collecting data, identifying flooding impacts, and then developing engineering solutions.

"We're going to be installing equipment to measure rainfall and channel flow, there will be certain sites that are measured and monitored in the next several months to help see if what we measures compares to what we calculate in our computer models," said Jim Bachhuber with Brown and Caldwell.

During the meeting, the Engineering Division asked that residents visit their website and report their flooding, including details like where they live and what they saw during flooding, to collect more data.

"The watershed's of big concern to me because there's been a lot of flooding in our neighborhood," said Frank Goodin, who lives near Lake Mendota. "I have a basement with a sump pump which has been pumping more frequently lately, so I'm becoming very concerned about what the city's doing about this."

The city said that each study will take about 18 to 24 months to complete.