The Village of La Valle, located on the Baraboo River, has sustained significant damage in several presidentially declared flooding disasters over the years, including in 2007, 2008 and 2018. In 2018, the river’s levels crested at just over 22 feet, readily surpassing the community’s moderate flood stage level of 17 feet and major flood stage mark of 19 feet. Many residential, commercial and village-owned properties and infrastructure were adversely impacted by each of these declarations. As a result, the Village has been diligently working to mitigate future impacts from flooding.
The Village’s most recent focus is to acquire and demolish substantially damaged properties, with 23 property owners already applying for assistance since the 2018 flooding disaster. This aggressive buyout project is reflective of the community’s desire to take positive, purposeful strides toward revitalizing affected neighborhoods and businesses. In support of the project, the Village created a Revitalization Committee and is partnering with several area agencies including the Sauk County Development Corporation, Sauk County Emergency Management and the University of Wisconsin-Extension to maximize efforts. Since the 2018 flood, the Village has struggled to financially balance flood-related repairs and needs. While it received some initial relief through FEMA, the community also needed to raise taxes, borrow funds and drain existing accounts to meet obligations and continue to make progress. The impacts have also been detrimental to businesses, with some proprietors closing up shop and others choosing to relocate outside of the floodway, which in some cases, means leaving La Valle entirely.
In 2020, MSA assisted the Village with the compilation of a scope, cost estimate, schedule and application for a FEMA FFY19 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant in collaboration with Wisconsin Emergency Management. La Valle was successful in being awarded a $106,260 Advance Assistance Grant through the program and was the only community in Wisconsin to receive this award in 2020; all other awards went to counties of the state for hazard mitigation planning efforts.
These funds are being used for a Recovery Plan which will model the floodplain to determine flood damage flow rates and elevations for the Baraboo River and determine peak runoff rates and volumes from upland flooding sources. After documenting current issues, several alternatives will be explored to address flooding due to these two sources. One alternative that will be explored is the potential relocation of Village assets outside of the floodplain and flood fringe. To envision what this might look like, MSA partnered with UW-Extension to hold a two-day design charrette with the Village. Advance Assistance grant funds will be applied to mitigation efforts and also used to update the Village’s Comprehensive Plan and incorporate recommendations from the Recovery Plan. The funds will also support review and updating of the Village’s ordinances to ensure zoning and building codes align with mitigation efforts, and ensure compliance with DNR’s model floodplain ordinance and the National Floodplain Insurance Program.
In June 2021, the community received notice of receiving over $1 million in grant funding through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to assist with the demotion of five flood-prone properties along the Baraboo River, reducing La Valle’s vulnerability to future flooding events. The village has plans to transform the former properties into open public green space and is making great progress toward community resiliency and revitalization in the face of tremendous challenges.