Lower lake level part of solution -- Jan Axelson

August 28, 2018

I agree with retired UW-Madison professor Ken Potter that better stormwater management would help reduce flooding in major storm events, as described in the State Journal’s editorial on Sunday, ” Warning about lakes was prophetic.”

Also helpful would be a change in lake level management to recognize that we are in an era of more frequent big storms. The current policy of attempting to hold the lakes near the middle of their target ranges has resulted in levels frequently exceeding their target maximums, leading to flooding and slow, no wake orders.

We’ve been here before. In 2011, at the request of the city of Madison after the floods of 2008, the state Department of Natural Resources convened an advisory group to discuss whether to recommend a change in lake level management. Limnologist Dick Lathrop made the modest proposal to manage Lake Mendota 3 inches lower than the current mid-range goal. The recommendation was ignored.

If Mendota had had 3 inches of additional storage capacity when the Aug. 20 storm hit, perhaps the county wouldn’t have needed to release so much water onto the Isthmus and downstream to protect the Tenney dam.

Will this be the storm that prompts a change in lake level management? How much more evidence do we need?

Jan Axelson, Madison

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