Keith Jereczek: Mistakes were made, and Dodge residents deserve better
Many items Dan Lilla mentioned in a recent editorial in the Winona Daily News (April 14, 2019) are contrary to what he’s told me and are not factual. The town board and the fire department did little to nothing to prevent the recent disastrous flood.
When I questioned him regarding a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study, he downplayed even applying. Instead, he said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicated there isn’t enough value in the town to protect and therefore didn’t merit applying. Yet, in his editorial, he readily pointed out that the Town of Dodge had applied.
There exists 90 municipal applicants nationwide for the federal interest determination (FID) study under the Continuing Authorities Program, Section 205 Flood Control, administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The FID study is 100% federally funded.
The FID study occurs prior to a feasibility study, which requires a 65% federal, 35% sponsor (i.e., the Town of Dodge) cost share. There is no hydrology study.
The town is not high on the list for the FID study nor is it moving up on the list. According to the St. Paul District, it isn’t likely the town will be chosen for the FID study.
Reference was made to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Municipal Flood Control Grant Program. This program does not assist with constructing a berm or dike.
There is no study required for program areas of assistance. The program requires a 50% state, 50% sponsor (the Town of Dodge) cost share. The DNR confirmed that the Town of Dodge has not applied.
The Department of Military Affairs, Wisconsin Emergency Management Administration (WEMA) has available flood control grants. Their priority is property acquisition of floodplain structures, not elevating (raising) structures.
The National Weather Service confirmed that moderate flooding in Dodge occurs at 11 feet and major flooding occurs at 12 feet. The NWS issued their first flood warning at 12:05 p.m. on March 12 and their second flood warning (upgrade) at 10:40 a.m. on March 13 for moderate flooding.
The warnings alerted the town board that the Trempealeau River in Dodge was expected to crest at over 11 feet within three to four days. Yet, they simply chose not to take action, wouldn’t even discuss sandbagging and neglected to provide notice to residents of the impending flood.
There were many mistakes made by the town board and fire department during the recent disastrous flood. It is my sincere hope the town board and the fire department learn from those mistakes in order to help prevent another community member from enduring what my daughter and I have endured.
As a property-tax payer and long-time community member, my daughter and I have a right to expect better. We have a right to expect to be protected and safe. We have a right to expect a permanent, long-term solution. We have a right to not constantly be in fear of the next flood.
The town board and the fire department must do more. They must do more in making our community and its members safer and better protected. The town board must offer guidance and direction, they must take initiative, in helping to create a stronger community for all of its members.
To be fair and clear, the fire department and town board have helped prepare for and conducted sandbagging efforts with previous floods. And I have always helped with sandbagging for every one of them. But the lack of help and empathy with the March 2019 flood is difficult to understand and fathom.
The next flood is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. To the town board: What are you doing to adequately prepare our town to be ready and resilient?
Keith Jereczek, Town of Dodge