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Rock Springs, Sauk County brace for more flooding

March 14, 2019

ROCK SPRINGS — “Here we go again,” CJ’s Rock N Stop Manager Laurie Buckholt thought when she heard the Baraboo River was projected to spill over its banks again this weekend.

“I hope it passes quickly and it’s not as bad as what they anticipate,” she said.

Almost six months after 27 feet of water from back-to-back floods inundated the village of over 300 people, the Baraboo River levels in Rock Springs are projected to rise to 24 feet before cresting March 17. Sauk County Emergency Management Director Jeff Jelinek said officials project river levels in the Reedsburg, Rock Springs and La Valle area will be at least 3 feet less than they were in August. Not much damage is anticipated.

“We’re going to have higher water in the rivers,” Jelinek said. “We may have a little over some roads, but we’re really not anticipating a tremendous amount of household or structural damage at this point with the forecasts we are getting.”

He said some homes could take on water “from generalized snow melt,” but not river water.

“We’ve already got reports of homes that are getting water though patio doors, basement windows, ground water type things,” Jelinek said.

The National Weather Service recorded river levels at Rock Springs of 12 feet by noon March 13 and predict the levels to reach 18.5 feet by March 15. The Baraboo River levels in Reedsburg on March 13 were 6.7 feet and La Valle measured 7.9 feet. Officials expect the Baraboo River to crest in La Valle and Reedsburg early March 16.

Jelinek encouraged people to sandbag their homes if they “know they are prone to waters,” especially if forecasts change with heavier rains upstream on the Baraboo River.

Sand and unfilled bags are available at the Sauk County’s West Baraboo garage, directly across the street from Festival Foods, at 614 Highway 136, West Baraboo and Reedsburg Area High School at 1100 South Albert Avenue, Reedsburg. Water cleanup kits are available at the Sauk County Courthouse in Baraboo at 510 Broadway and will be available at noon March 14 at the Reedsburg Human Services Department at 425 Sixth St.

“The time to prepare is now,” Jelinek said.

At CJ’s Rock N Shop, a gas station and convenience store, Buckholt said she plans to disconnect the gas station pumps March 14 and move them above flood level on the property until the flood waters recede. She said during the August floods, the waters “fried all of the electronics” inside the gas pumps. She said new gas pumps had to be purchased and gas service was shut down for one month. The building, which sits above the filling area, was unaffected.

The village is working on a plan to relocate its downtown area and business district out of the floodplain to the east of the village. In Rock Springs, four businesses, three houses, the community center and an apartment building sustained substantial damage from the 2018 floods and are eligible for buyouts. Buckholt, who sits on the village board and flood committee, said the committee plans to discuss phase II of the plan, focusing on a residential plan to attract residents to the area.

Lindsey Strahota, a resident of Rock Springs who lives on higher ground, liked the idea of moving the downtown to keep the village moving forward.

“This community has seen such devastation and it could really use some good news,” Strahota said. “So if it went uphill it would be a good thing.”