Oregon neighborhood contends with flooding as ground water remains high

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OREGON (WKOW) — For years, people living along Jefferson St. in Oregon have been watching water creep in, taking over their yards and flooding their garages and basements.

Tom McCann said the saturated ground has slowly been turning his property into marshland.

“Cattails came in with the water flowing through our backyards,” he said, walking through his yard. “We haven’t been able to mow past here for four years.”

His yard leads up to Badfish Creek. He said it used to be a small trickle of water draining behind his house but he said over the past 10 years, more and more water has been flowing through following development upstream.

Now, McCann said it’s been finding new places to seep in.

“Everybody on this side of the street gets a wet basement with lots of water,” he said.

According to Jeff Rau, the Oregon Public Works director, all this water is a symptom of an issue impacting the entire village.

“The groundwater table is the highest we’ve ever really seen on record,” he said.

Rau said that’s due to the heavy rainfall the Madison area has faced over the past several years. He said it’s been on an upward trend and last year’s record rain hit the low-lying village of Oregon particularly hard.

“They’re really combating the fact that their basement is at or below the level of the ground water outside and there’s really nothing you can do but pump,” he said.

Jefferson St. is already lined with pumps. McCann said he’s fortunate his home is high enough they don’t have to get water out every day but others have been fitted with more than a sump pump constantly working.

“[The water] comes in through the cracks in the floor,” he said.

Rau said the village is working with the Dane County Drainage Board to figure out a more permanent solution but they’re planning to start with dredging the creek this fall. He said the project would widen the half-mile section of Badfish Creek that flows behind Jefferson St. in the hopes that would get the water flowing through faster.

“We want to be very careful to make any kind of snap decisions on what we do because this could be something that’s just regionally for a couple years or it could be something that we’re going to live with for the next 50 to 100 years” Rau said.

Meanwhile, neighbors like McCann said their patience is drying up.

“It’s just been getting worse and worse,” he said.

The Drainage Board is meeting in the coming weeks to assess reactivating a drainage district for that area to fund other long-term flood mitigation projects.

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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