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Three counties pursue grant together for watershed study
Jersey Valley Dam
JERSEY VALLEY is proba-bly the best-known of the five flood control dams in Vernon and Monroe counties that breached in the August 2018 floods.
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DRIFTLESS - Vernon, Monroe and LaCrosse counties will move forward together with applying for a grant to study two watersheds above flood control dams that breached in the August 2018 floods. Vernon and Monroe will apply together to study the West Fork Kickapoo Watershed, and all three counties will apply to study the Coon Creek Watershed.

Because the West Fork Kickapoo is a much smaller drainage basin that the Kickapoo River Main Stem, the impact of the West Fork dams is relatively small in the context of the bigger watershed. For this reason, it was necessary to select the smaller watershed to study in order to increase the likelihood that the project will be funded. It is expected, however, that the results of the study will ultimately be applicable to the rest of the Kickapoo River watershed.

“We have been in several intensive meetings with Steve Becker, USDA-NRCS Conservation Engineer for the State of Wisconsin, about how to apply for funds to study the watersheds,” Vernon County Dams Manager Mark Erickson told the Vernon County Land Conservation Committee. “These studies, if the funding is approved, will allow us to look at the watersheds in a completely new light.”

Erickson said that the study would develop hydrographs of the watersheds, with updated rainfall amounts and land use information, under three scenarios: with the dams, with the dams removed, and with new and improved dams.

“Through these studies, we will be able to determine if the dams are still relevant to flood control in our area,” Erickson explained. “We are optimistic that the studies will be funded, but it is a highly competitive process.”

Erickson explained that the process of what to do about the breached dams would take place in three phases:

1.     Study the watersheds

2.     Construction and design

3.     Repair or abandon the dams

Each phase is expected to take approximately one to one-and-one-half years.

Erickson also emphasized that there are several factors which make this study more likely to be chosen for funding:

• Ready, willing and able – Erickson’s proven background in working with issues relating to the flood control dams, and the transect study of soil loss in the watersheds means that the county will be able to launch immediately into the study if the funds are approved.

 • Local support – the more letters of support the study has from local elected leaders, the better the chance it will be funded.