Sauk Prairie officials resort to pumping to alleviate flooding concerns

March 16, 2019

Prairie du Sac Village Administrator Alan Wildman said as far as he knows, the retention pond at Walter Doll Park has never needed to be pumped.

That changed March 14 and 15, when the trifecta of melting ice and snow, frozen ground and rain put so much of a strain on the basin that not even the village’s fire department could keep up with it.

“The water was coming up so fast,” Wildman said. “I got a call that while they were out there pumping, the water had actually risen by two inches.”

That’s when larger pumps capable of draining 5,000 gallons of water per minute were called in.

Prairie du Sac Fire Chief James Schulenburg said the department’s truck is capable of pumping 750 gallons per minute.

“We were pumping pretty solid for three hours and the water level increased,” Schulenburg said. “We kept monitoring it while trying to figure out another solution. (Prairie du Sac Public Works Director) Troy Murphy and I talked an agreed we needed a different plan. Unfortunately what we were doing just wasn’t effective.”

Wildman said they had no idea something like this could happen.

“Even during the flooding of 2008, that basin reached capacity and there was sandbagging,” Wildman said. “But by the next morning the water had all but drained.”

The Walter Doll Park basin wasn’t the only one to reach capacity. Another water basin on Parkside Drive in the village also was at capacity, Wildman said. “It got to a point where neither of them could take on any more water,” Wildman said.

Residents living by the intersection of Lueders Road and Broadway Street also faced challenges, with water from farmland across the street spilling out over the curb, onto the street and into a catch basin.

With the ground still frozen, the thawing snow and ice couldn’t be absorbed back into the land.

Sauk Prairie Police Chief Jerry Strunz stated in a news release several roads in the Sauk Prairie area were deemed unsafe for travel and closed.

While Prairie du Sac had the greatest water difficulties, Sauk City still experienced some flooding in the Cardinal Estates subdivision, and a small section of Highway 12 outside of Sauk City was inundated with high water as well.

The parking lot and land surrounding the Sauk City Family Restaurant also was underwater, so much so the owners consistently checked around the building about every half-hour. Much of the restaurant’s front parking lot had between one and two inches of water covering it, while the back of the lot and side had as much as four to five inches.

“I was in tears the whole time,” Sauk City Family Restaurant co-owner Lula Aliju said. “I didn’t want to go home.”

After closing the restaurant, Aliju said she and her husband went back to check on their business every hour. Around midnight, the water had started to recede. “Fortunately we didn’t have any water in the restaurant,” she said. “We didn’t have any damage.”

She did witness one of the large garbage dumpsters floating by.

“It was about half-full, so I guess it was light enough for the water to carry it,” Aliju said. “We can’t even move it; we have to wait for the garbage company to come.”

A small house just past the restaurant on the way out of town had just a few feet on either side of it not under water, making it look like an island oasis as water rushed around it. Most of the home’s driveway disappeared under water.

“We are very fortunate that we don’t have a lot of flooding in Sauk City,” said Sauk City Village Administrator Vicki Breunig. “A few basements were affected and we definitely had more than what we typically get from a spring thaw.”

Breunig said the village had crews pumping water in the backyards of residences where power transformers are stationed.

“At Cardinal Estates we did have to pump some of the water out of the retention ponds,” she said. “When the ground is still frozen all this water can’t go anywhere. It’s not like both villages don’t have adequate retention ponds, because we do.”

In the department’s news release, Strunz noted sandbags were available for residents at the public works garage, and that officers and firefighters went door-to-door to check in with residents along the flood zone.

Sauk City and Baraboo firefighters helped pack sandbags while Prairie du Sac’s firefighters were out going door-to-door. The Sauk County Sheriff’s Office, Sauk County Emergency Management and Reedsburg and Lake Delton fire departments also assisted where needed.

Overall, everyone working through the situation said things went well.

“In hindsight, we were very optimistic our pumps would have done the job,” Wildman said. “But it took longer for us to make any headway.”

“I have lived here all my life and have never seen anything quite like this,” Schulenburg said. “We had an unusual amount of snow and all the ice underneath with frozen ground. It warmed up quickly. All that water has to go somewhere. It is meant to go (to the retention ponds) but obviously they aren’t meant to intake as much water as it did and as fast.”