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Green Infrastructure Planning in the Black Earth Creek Watershed

Green Infrastructure Planning in the Black Earth Creek Watershed

Photo by Gateway to the Driftless

This spring, CARPC staff worked with the US Army Corps of Engineers on a proposal to fund a hydrologic and hydraulic modeling study of the Black Earth Creek Watershed. We are pleased to announce that our proposal was selected for funding through USACE’s Silver Jackets program, with a budget of $120,000 per year in FY21 and FY22. The project will be completed in partnership with the Wisconsin Silver Jackets State Hazard Mitigation Team and is expected to kick off in October.

This modeling project is part of a larger, collaborative, watershed-level green infrastructure planning effort that first began to develop last year. Green infrastructure is a broad range of practices that mimic natural processes for managing stormwater and reducing flow to surface waters. After the results of the A Greater Madison Vision survey highlighted flood mitigation, particularly through green infrastructure, as a top regional priority, CARPC started looking for opportunities to work with communities on these issues at a regional scale.

CARPC initially reached out to Dane County Emergency Management (DCEM) about the County’s flood mitigation priorities. DCEM identified the Black Earth Creek Watershed as an area prone to repeated flood damages and highly suitable for nonstructural mitigation projects. From there, CARPC began to coordinate with communities in the watershed including the Villages of Cross Plains, Black Earth, and Mazomanie and the Town of Cross Plains, as well as  other key stakeholders such as the Black Earth Creek Watershed Association (BECWA) and Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM). These discussions built foundational support for the creation of a regional green infrastructure plan.

The watershed’s flood vulnerabilities were most recently highlighted in August 2018, when extensive damages to homes, businesses, and infrastructure occurred after a record rainfall event. Increased development in the watershed, along with the loss of natural wetlands and woodlands to agriculture, is thought to have contributed to flooding. The watershed green infrastructure plan proposes to coordinate efforts among multiple municipalities and unincorporated areas to address these vulnerabilities and reduce future flood damages.

The completed plan will ultimately serve as a blueprint for increasing flood resilience through projects that provide stormwater storage and infiltration, floodwater storage and diversion, floodplain and stream restoration, and wetland restoration. When implemented, the plan’s recommended green infrastructure projects will result in greater flood resilience and improved water quality in addition to social and economic benefits.

The first steps in the planning process have focused on stakeholder outreach and applying for federal assistance. Representatives from the Town of Cross Plains, the Villages of Black Earth, Cross Plains, and Mazomanie, BECWA, The Nature Conservancy, Groundswell Conservancy, Gateway to the Driftless, Dane County Land & Water Resources, and the Wisconsin DNR have lent their support and participated in steering committee meetings. In addition to the USACE Silver Jackets proposal, CARPC staff are also working with Wisconsin Emergency Management in the hopes of securing Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding. If awarded, these funds will be used to hire a consultant to assist with plan development.

As the project moves ahead, we look forward to continuing to work with local communities and organizations as well as other partners to lay the groundwork for future green infrastructure projects. Stay tuned for more updates!