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2018 year in review (part two)
Dams and Cities
THIS TOPOGRAPHIC MAP shows part of the West Fork of the Kickapoo River with some of the PL-566 dams located in the watershed marked with red stars. Two dams, near the top of the map just east of Westby, Jersey Valley and Mlsna Dams, failed after a catastrophic rain event impacted the area near the Monroe-Vernon County line near Cashton in the early hours of Wednesday, Aug. 29. The dam failures contributed to historic flooding levels down valley in early September.

DRIFTLESS - JULY:The Seneca Fire Department honors one of their volunteers who passed away recently. Timothy D. Ray, 58, Seneca, passed away unexpectedly Sunday, July 1, 2018….Lifeguards from the Gays Mills Pool participated in rescue exercises with members of Ocooch Mountain Rescue at the pool on Saturday. The training was aimed at familiarizing the personnel with procedures at the pool and the EMS response…The Kickapoo Valley Ringers, a dedicated group of horseshoe pitching competitors, celebrated the completion of their horseshoe pits near the Log Cabin Village, which are National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA) competition-sanctioned horseshoe pits… A lot of horseshoe pitching talent from around the state was on hand to participate in the first-ever, state sanctioned tournament in Gays Mills. Among the competitors was the defending Wisconsin Men’s Class A Champion, Lonny Trangsrud from Eau Claire. Janesville’s Linda Roeber won the Class A Division by winning five matches and losing just one, while shooting 56.43 percent ringers. The legendary Bernard ‘Bun’ Carley from Richland Center also competed in the Class A Division… The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the LaCrosse County Health Department recently announced the first documented death from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) in the state… During the open session of the North Crawford School Board meeting on Monday night, Tina Volden was approved as the school’s new athletic director.

AUGUST:In the first growing season since the industrial hemp administrative rule was released by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, four local organic growers have taken on the challenge of bringing back this old American agricultural crop…. Sunrise Orchard’s Maynard Teach was presented with the Legacy Award by the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association. This award is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the Wisconsin apple industry in areas such as: apple and soil improvements, community knowledge, and service…The UW-Richland Alumni Association, has announced the names of the five individuals selected as recipients of the 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award. The honorees representing the era of the Richland County Teachers College include Julia Nee McNamer Newkirk, Verona, Class of 1947, and Margaret Davidson, Soldiers Grove, Class of 1968.  Representing the era of the current UW-Richland campus are Eric Briehl, Spring Green, Class of 1970; Dr. Tom Williams, Richland Center, Class of 1975; and LaVon ‘Spanky’ Felton, Viroqua, Class of 1989… Paul Buhr defeated Alicia Leinberger in the Democratic Primary Election for the 96th District State Assembly Seat on Tuesday night…North Clayton Township poll workers persevered in conducting the August 14, 2018 Wisconsin Partisan Primary Election despite challenges presented by the failure of both of their electronic voting machines. The failure resulted in some voters waiting up to an hour to vote, while the polling location staff obtained more paper ballots… Dane County declared a State of Emergency after overnight torrential rains caused widespread flooding. Multiple roads and bridges are closed and evacuations continue this morning.  Some of the impacted areas include Mazomanie, Black Earth, Cross Plains, Middleton and Madison. The National Weather Service says approximately 11-13” of rain fell west of Madison… Four local Vernon County food innovators participated in the Wisconsin State Fair Grand Champion Eats & Treats Competition this past week.  Wisco Pop! Fizzeology, Nami Chips and B&E’s Trees all represented Vernon County small food businesses at the Wisconsin State Fair…On Monday night heavy rains fell just to our north in Vernon and Monroe counties. There were reports of rainfall that ranged up to 11 inches. The Village of Ontario recorded eight inches. The Kickapoo River and its tributaries were flooded and rising. All that water was headed south to Readstown, Soldiers Grove, Gays Mills and beyond, as the newspaper went to press.

SEPTEMBER:It flooded again last week in the Kickapoo River Valley and it set another all-time record. This flood was deeper than the 2008 flood, which was the deepest flood to date. Record flood depths were set from Ontario to Steuben and at all communities between those two villages. In Gays Mills, the water definitely went places it had never gone before—including several residences that had been elevated after the 2008 flood… The overtopping and breaching of two dams in the headwaters of the West Fork of the Kickapoo River in Vernon County played a major role in turning the recent flood from large to historic. Two dams that failed in the headwaters of Coon Creek in Monroe County, and flowed into Rulland Coulee, also impacted rural areas and villages downriver with unprecedented flash flooding. That water entered the Mississippi River near Stoddard… Due to flooding the Fourteenth Annual Driftless Area Art Festival will not be held at the Beauford T. Anderson Park in Soldiers Grove, but instead the festival will take place on the grounds of the Crawford County Fair, just outside of Gays Mills… Donald Paulsen, 73, Blue River, was driving a 2006 Buick SUV south on 61. His vehicle’s left rear suspension broke, causing the vehicle to go into the right ditch  and become submerged in the floodwaters. Paulsen and his passenger Gordon Butler, 80, Boscobel were not injured. They were rescued from the water by passerby Army National Guard Members…A meeting of the Vernon County Land and Water Conservation Department was held on Thursday, Sept. 13, in Viroqua. At that meeting, the LWCD Committee heard reports from experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USDA NRCS, and the Land Conservation Department, on the damages and the need for assessments and repairs of the county’s flood control dams…A number of area communities have gone into high gear raising funds for relief for local residents, who have suffered due to recent historic flooding… The community of Readstown will hold a family-friendly flood recovery fundraiser, ‘People Helping People.’… A PUMPkin us UP benefit has been planned for Becky and Tucker Gretebeck who’s farm was devastated when the dams burst in northern Vernon County…Ryan Campbell, who with his wife Crystal owns the gas station in Soldiers Grove, started a GoFundMe site for flood relief donations after the first of the two ‘Labor Day 2018’ floods. He raised $5,600, so $5,300 (the amount less fees charged by the website provider) have been divided equally between Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove Volunteer Fire Departments…The Community Kitchen in Gays Mills, led by Jill Riggs, has been providing meals for area residents impacted by flooding. In addition, they have been preparing and sending meals out to other communities that also suffered in the floods, demonstrating what an excellent community resource the shared use kitchen is… Apple Fest went on as scheduled on September 28-30 and was enjoyed by all despite the recent flooding.

OCTOBER:Go Macro, a company, which manufactures healthy, delicious, nutrition bars, has recently expanded their Viola manufacturing plant and added solar panels to a south-facing roof… Friends of Cliff Tollefson gathered at the Wooden Nickel Saloon, where he finally wore all the medals he was awarded for his service in the Vietnam War including a Bronze Star. Tollefeson had never received some of the medals, including the Bronze Star. Through the work of his friends and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office, the missing medals were presented to him at a ceremony among friends… A ‘Local Flood Relief Benefit’ will take at the Olerud Barn,  in Westby… On Saturday, Oct. 13 in Readstown, there will be a flood relief benefit featuring food, raffles, live and silent auction and kids games and music. Jay Hoffman and John Ward of Soldiers Grove will head up the musical lineup, followed by a country band, Joe Cody, and then Annie & the Champ (High Mileage plus a few more…The Vernon County Land and Water Committee continued to grapple with challenges associated with the breach of two of the flood control dams in the county and damage to several others. At their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 11, there was discussion of proposals to use Ho-Chunk funds for various conservation purposes… Kickapoo Grazing Initiative and Great River Graziers are hosting a tour and lunch at the new Solar Meats in Soldiers Grove. Attendees can meet the owners of Solar Meats, Rich Sitarski and Duane Johannes, and the managers of the new retail store, Mike and Sue Mueller. Solar Meats is currently under construction and they are renovating the old Swiss Valley plant in Soldiers Grove to become a meat processing facility.  They plan to seek organic certification as well.  Mike and Sue Mueller will be operating the future retail store on site…. The Seneca girls had two conference matches left with the conference title on the line last week. The Indians came into the night wanting to take the title home with them. With getting things together in the first game  and then playing great teamwork, they became conference champs for the fourth straight year… The last game of the regular season was a tour de force for the Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben football team. “One of our goals for the season was to win conference and we accomplished that goal!’ head coach Justin Goodrich said. “We knew everyone would be coming for us this year and the guys were determined to win back-to-back conference championships. I am very proud of these young men on and off the field.”… The Soldiers Grove Village approved ATV-UTV use on all streets in the Village of Soldiers Grove… Residents in eight Wisconsin counties may be eligible for federal disaster assistance for losses caused by the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, flooding and landslides during the period of August 17 to September 14, 2018. Eligible counties include Crawford, Dane, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Richland, Sauk and Vernon.

NOVEMBER:The Viroqua Food Co-op has completed construction, doubled in size, and now it’s time to celebrate! The Co-op is hosting a Grand Reopening Celebration Thursday, November 8 through Saturday November 10, and is located at 609 North Main Street in Viroqua… It was a gorgeous day on Tuesday, October 16, when the Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Project’s tour bus loaded in the parking lot of Thiesen’s Hardware in Sparta. Sixty-five trout fishing and stream restoration enthusiasts joined the tour to view improvements made to Beaver Creek in Monroe County, and Weister Creek in the Kickapoo Valley in Vernon County…The midterm election held Tuesday, Nov. 6 had it all. There were upsets, blowouts and elections almost too close to call. Initial unofficial results, showed 6,604 people of the 8,377 registered voters, voted in Crawford County–that’s almost 79 percent… Several rural Seneca neighbors have created the 3C Co-op for the express purpose of closing the gap in Crawford County between the haves and have-nots in broadband internet service. The 3C (Crawford County Communications) Co-op grew from the efforts of the neighbors to get broadband internet service to their businesses and homes, located along Stony Point Road in Seneca Township…The staff and board of the Viroqua Food Cooperative, along with financial and community partners, kicked off the celebration of their expansion project o with a ribbon-cutting ceremony…Flood recovery centers are staffed by federal and state disaster recovery officials and are designed to help disaster survivors – homeowners, renters and businesses – affected by the severe storms and flooding that occurred between August 17, 2018 and Sept. 14, 2018…An unidentified hunter, from Milton, was using a climber stand when the stand gave way and the subject was suspended upside down about five feet off the ground. He had his safety harness attached, however his leg became caught in the bottom rung of the stand. A neighbor to the property was walking to the woods with his son to put up their stands, when the son heard someone yelling for help. The neighbor investigated, and found the subject about 30 yards into the woods off Welker Hollow. The victim indicated he had been hanging upside down for approximately two hours…North Crawford Playhouse’s recently concluded musical ‘Beauty and the Beast’ included a scene, where castle staff (Mirror-Nyah Forkash, Cogsworth-Martha Bransky, Babette-Katie Schellhorn, the Wardrobe-Norah O’Brien and Mrs. Potts-Elena Esparza) welcome Belle to the enchanted castle with a chorus of ‘Be Our Guest.’... By all accounts, the farmers of the Tainter Creek Watershed Council (TCWC) had a pretty spectacular year in 2018. In addition to all the hard work of farming, complicated by flooding and wet weather, the farmers met at least bi-monthly, held two major education events, disbursed their cover crop funding and conducted their well water testing initiative. The power of cooperation toward a common goal is no doubt part of the reason their DATCP funding will likely be renewed in 2019… At the meeting of the Vernon County Land and Water Conservation Committee, PL-566 Dams Manager Mark Erickson reported that the NRCS engineering study needed to begin evaluation of future plans for the county flood control dams would not be available until the committee’s December meeting… Cynthia Olmstead, Chris Baistreri, and Michael Varnes-Epstein of Diftless Brewery seem pretty proud the day after the first batch of tanks for their new 15-barrel brewing system arrived and were installed last Thursday…The North Crawford School Board voted unanimously to transition to eight-man football, starting with the 2020 season… 

DECEMBER: Gays Mills held what is planned to be the first of a series of free community suppers. The event was a collaboration between Luther Memorial Church in Gays Mills and Our Savior’s Church in Soldiers Grove, the Village of Gays Mills and North Crawford School District. Approximately 175 people gathered to share supper and fellowship. The meal was made by teachers at North Crawford Schools…A hunter found skeletal remains near County W in the Town of Clifton, in Monroe County. The remains were recovered but have not been identified, nor has a cause of death been determined… A local woman took another giant step forward in her journey through organic agriculture–Harriet Behar, who lives on a farm near Rolling Ground, was recently elected by her peers to become the Chairperson of the National Organic Standards Board…North Crawford forward Grant Smith scored 1,000 points in his high school career on Thursday, Dec. 6, in a home game played against Kickapoo. Standing with his parents, Bobby and Charity Smith, Grant holds a ball commemorating the moment...At their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18, the Crawford County Board of Supervisors voted 9-7 against a resolution concerning High Capacity Transmission Lines that was already passed unanimously by the Crawford County Land and Water Conservation Committee. The vote was preceded by a lengthy discussion. The resolution concerns High Capacity Transmission Lines and seeks to hold utility companies legally accountable by providing clear information, research, and non-transmission alternatives to the county, such as energy efficiency and distributed renewable energy production…About 25 people gathered at the Franklin Town Hall on Monday, Dec. 10 to hear representatives of the UW-Stevens Point and UW-Extension Center for Watershed Science and Education. The discussion centered on results of the recent well water testing conducted in the watershed. Generally, the results were described as ‘good,’ with only a few of the 44 samples testing high for coliform and nitrate… Thirty-eight communities, non-profit groups, and counties will share over $532,000 in 2019 state grant dollars to promote and sustain urban forest resources in Wisconsin. The Village of Gays Mills was awarded $18,758 for comprehensive private/public tree safety and restoration.