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Flood mitigation initiative in northwestern Dane County receives FEMA funding

Flood mitigation initiative in northwestern Dane County receives FEMA funding

In December, the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) was awarded $150,000 in state and federal funding to develop a green infrastructure plan for the Black Earth Creek watershed in northwestern Dane County. The planning effort, funded in part through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, seeks to reduce flood impacts and improve water quality in the watershed. 

Black Earth Creek - Photo Courtesy of Gateway to the Driftless
Photo courtesy of Gateway to the Driftless

Local communities, CARPC, Dane County Emergency Management, Wisconsin Emergency Management and other partners started working together in 2019, following the 2018 flooding that caused extensive damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. The FEMA grant award resulted from months of outreach and collaboration among project partners.  

Planning will include modeling and data analysis, public outreach, and recommendations for specific green infrastructure practices, developed with the assistance of a consultant. This month, Emmons & Olivier Resources, Inc. (EOR) and their project partners were selected as the consultant team for the project. The interdisciplinary team includes EOR, Sand County Foundation, Silvernail Studio for Geodesign, and Ken Potter. The completed green infrastructure plan for the watershed will create a unified strategy among local, regional, and state partners to reduce flood impacts and improve water quality which in turn will strengthen communities and the economy. 

As both Chair of the Town of Cross Plains and President of the Black Earth Creek Watershed Association (BECWA), Greg Hyer understands the importance of working together on shared challenges. “This CARPC-led project helps watershed towns, villages, and other governmental and non-profit stakeholders understand how climate change and development affects all of us from Middleton and Cross Plains to Black Earth and Mazomanie,” says Hyer, who serves on the project’s steering committee. “We’ll be able to develop individual and regional strategies to protect our properties and an outstanding cold-water resource: Black Earth Creek.” 

Green infrastructure captures and absorbs precipitation in the ground, which reduces the volume of water running into streams and lakes. Less stormwater run-off reduces the risk of flooding during storm events, making the region more resilient. Green infrastructure projects include rain gardens, wetland restorations, and agricultural practices such as cover cropping. 

The idea for the initiative first emerged from public input received through the 2018 A Greater Madison Vision survey combined with Dane County Emergency Management’s insight on county flood mitigation priorities. From there, CARPC’s initial planning, project development, and coalition-building led to the creation of a steering committee of local decision-makers and partnerships with state and federal agencies. 

To date, representatives from the Town of Cross Plains, the Villages of Black Earth, Cross Plains, and Mazomanie, the Black Earth Creek Watershed Association, The Nature Conservancy, Groundswell Conservancy, Gateway to the Driftless, Southern WI Trout Unlimited, Dane County Land & Water Resources, Dane County Emergency Management, Dane County Planning & Development, the UW-Madison College of Engineering, the Wisconsin DNR, Wisconsin Emergency Management, and the US Army Corps of Engineers have all contributed their support, time, and expertise to the initiative. 

In 2020, the project secured assistance from the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a hydrologic and hydraulic modeling study of the watershed. The $240,000 modeling effort, funded through USACE’s Silver Jackets program, will be completed in partnership with the Wisconsin Silver Jackets State Hazard Mitigation Team over the next two years.