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Flooding on East Mifflin Street

Rising flood water last week approached the front steps of townhouses on East Mifflin Street near Livingston Street in downtown Madison following record-setting rainfall.

As Madison residents continue to stack sandbags and pump water out of basements, city officials likely will not know the fiscal extent of damage from recent rainstorms and flooding for the next three to six months, Mayor Paul Soglin said Tuesday.

Several items included in the the mayor’s 2019 Executive Capital Budget, which Soglin introduced Tuesday, deal with storm water management. However, he said those items were included before the record-setting rainfall of the past two weeks that continues to cause flooding concerns.

“You can’t just throw money at something,” Soglin said. “There has to be plans and engineering.”

In Soglin’s proposed capital budget, $6.1 million is included to improve the storm water network on McKenna Boulevard to reduce flooding and increase protection from property damage. Approximately $4 million is included through 2024 for improvements to the city’s storm sewer system.

Additionally, the proposed budget includes $2.7 million in 2019 to divert storm water runoff from the East Branch of Starkweather Creek to an existing reconfigured pond north of Milwaukee Street and east of the creek. With added coagulant to the diverted runoff, the new system is meant to remove approximately 1,600 pounds of phosphorous.

Soglin said there will likely not be many changes to the 2019 budget in response to flood damage, since the budget will be approved before the city can conduct a comprehensive evaluation. Additionally, the city could receive federal funds that address damage to private property and public areas.

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“It will take many months to figure out what our long term needs are in response to 500-year rains, and then we will obviously have to amend this year’s budget or include changes for the 2020 budget,” Soglin said. “In any case, it will disrupt part of the long term capital improvement plan.”

While some flooding damage could be mitigated, Soglin said there could be areas where the “design and the original configuration of the city” make it impossible to solve flooding problems.

“The topography and these record rains may be insurmountable,” Soglin said.

Madison is expected to get up to one inch of rainfall overnight Tuesday and into midday Wednesday. A flood warning is in effect until 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.