Lake Kegonsa flooding

Floodwaters at Kegonsa Cove in June, 2018.

But for some untimely rain in February, the flooding issues plaguing the Meadowview neighborhood in the Town of Dunn might have been somewhat mitigated.

Last winter, the town had scheduled crews to come out and clear vegetation in the drainage ditches that help move water from the neighborhood, which sits near the intersection of Meadowview and Larsen Roads.

But the heavy equipment requires the ground to be frozen at least four feet deep and bad luck with weather ruined that plan, Town of Dunn business manager Cathy Hasslinger told the Observer.

“With the rain in February and their other projects, the highway crew didn’t get to it,” Hasslinger said. “There was just a very narrow window of time.”

A dozen residents of the neighborhood came to talk about the decades-long problem at the Town Board’s listening session July 23, Hasslinger said. Some “were not happy and felt the town should have cleaned these ditches out over wintertime.”

The meeting was productive, Hasslinger said, with people sharing concerns and ideas about potential solutions. One resident used a drone to film the network of ditches – some of which are owned by Dane County. Hasslinger said it was “really useful” to see the scope of the problem.

The town passed the footage along to the county, and the two entities have been in communication about the problem, she said.

Past and future

The town started working on drainage ditches in the Meadowview Neighborhood in 1988 and have since completed a number of different drainage-ways. According to a history of the issue prepared by former town clerk Rosalind Gausman in 2006, the neighborhood plat “would never have been approved” using today’s standards due to water drainage issues.

The town has purchased easements from various landowners to construct the ditches, which have sometimes proven to be a sticking point when a resident doesn’t want a ditch taking water onto their property from a neighbor’s land.

Hasslinger said she’s seen incidents of neighbors refusing the easement, only to come back 15 years later and reconsider due to flooding.

Over the years, the ditches become overgrown with vegetation and don’t drain as well as they used to. It’s a compounding problem, Hasslinger said, because when the land is dry enough, neighbors can maintain the ditches by mowing them themselves. When they’re wet, though, mowing becomes impossible, and the vegetation increases, which then slows water flow, keeping it on the land.

In some parts of the neighborhood, the water table is so high residents have to run their basement sump-pumps constantly. That water then flows into the drainage ditches, which adds to the problem.

This year, the town has tried to clear the ditches using equipment borrowed from the Village of Oregon, but with little success. Now they’re trying some equipment loaned from the Town of Oregon.

Hasslinger has informed the county and state of the flooding situation and plans to apply for grants. One potential issue in applying for grants is that people do not like to report flooding damage to their homes because it affects their property value.

“We encourage people if they’re comfortable to report the damages,” Hasslinger said. “In order to qualify (for a FEMA grant), you need to have a certain number of properties affected” and include information about the extent of the damage.

The next step toward fixing the problem is getting the ditches clear of excess vegetation, and the town is considering an array of options. It’s looking at bidding out the project to private contractors to gauge the cost and working with the county on its plan to clear the ditches that are on county land.

“I know we can take some reasonable actions to make things better for people,” Hasslinger said. “It’s something that’s affecting people’s day-to-day lives and property values.”

Contact Alexander Cramer at alexander.cramer@wcinet.com.