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Buying out damaged homes priority in Wisconsin flood prevention

MADISON (WKOW) – State officials are prioritizing buying out flood damaged homes as a tool to prevent future  flood damage such as took place in southern Wisconsin’s August 2018 deluge.

Director Emeritus Larry Larson of the Association of State Flood Plain Managers says flooding has become the most concerning of the state’s severe weather events.

“Floods are a primary hazard,”  Larson says.

“We don’t have earthquakes.  Yes, we have some tornadoes, but most of our damage comes from floods.”

In 2018, flooding ravaged the Madison area and swamped communities such as Reedsburg, Rock Springs and Gays Mills a decade after a previous, one hundred year flood.

“Rock Springs, you got to look at every option,”  Larson says of flood beleaguered regions investigating flood mitigation strategies.

“Reedsburg, they had a bunch of buy outs,”  Larson says.

Larson references an approach involving federal grant money to buy out qualifying, flood damaged homes and then clear the properties.

“The program allows any community to apply for the funding, not just those counties or communities impacted,”  says Wisconsin Emergency Management Spokesperson Lori Getter.

“There were about 160 buyout requests.  Based on funding – we will only be able to fund 100-120 statewide,”  Getter says.   “The rest are put on a list for possible future funding opportunities.”

Officials in Mazomanie are considering involvement with the program, with potential plans for the buy out of more than a half dozen, badly flood-damaged homes.

“We like to view it for the taxpayer as ‘one and done,’ ”  Larson says.

“You had to spend taxpayer money on this property because it got damaged.  If we move that structure out of there and make it open space, the taxpayer will never again have to pay for damages on that property,”  says Larson.

Getter says homeowners are offered fair market value for their properties.

“They may have to get flooded twice to be willing to be bought out,”  Larson says.

Larson says while federal intervention continues to involve investments in structural modifications such as dams and levees, removing homes from flood prone regions and creating green space is more cost effective and assures significant community buy-in.

“Buy outs are a priority in Wisconsin,” he says.





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Tony Galli

Reporter, WKOW

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