By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – With water levels remaining high on the Great Lakes, the village is preparing for another year of potential flooding.
The Howard village board heard Monday, Feb. 10, from Ed Janke, director of public safety, about what’s being done to ready the village for potential flooding.
“We began last year, after our after-action review, preparing for this year, because all indications were last year that this water issue is going to continue,” he said.
Based on long-term predictions from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Janke said high water levels will be around for a while.
“Right now, again, the water in the Bay (of Green Bay) is about 6 inches off its all-time high,” he said.
Janke said the village will focus its efforts in preparation for flooding with protecting infrastructure, response and recovery efforts, and how to manage those who get displaced from their homes.
“What we’re trying to do now is encourage people to be absolutely prepared and take their own steps to mitigate emergencies that we have to respond to,” he said. “So, if they know the water’s coming up, they know they’re in the floodplain, they need to take their own steps to move their property out, perhaps even now, and do whatever they can to have a plan, so it reduces the number of emergencies that we need to respond to.”
With Howard’s response to potential flooding being contingent upon the weather, Janke said the village will work through the emergency phase when the water level rises and then go into the recovery phase when it goes back down.
“(The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is) telling us the soil is 98 percent saturated, and the Corps of Engineers is saying there’s water all over regionally,” he said. “We’re in the watershed that starts way up north, comes down the Wolf (River), turns around, goes through the (Lake) Winnebago kind of chain down there and comes back north to us… All the water in northeastern Wisconsin is coming back here. That’s a problem, or potentially a problem, for us.”
Janke said the village is “as prepared as we can be” for possible flooding this year.
“We’ve engaged law enforcement, public works, the fire department,” he said. “Everybody’s working together to the extent that we can to make sure that our community is prepared, and I think everybody has done a good job.”
Based on the flood map, Janke said Howard came close last year to having water levels go into the 100-year floodplain, for which there are more than 100 residences.
“We are planning (this year) for somewhere between a 100- and 500-year flood,” he said. “So, then that dramatically changes what the Village of Howard would look like. It’s not simply a Valley Lane issue. It becomes everything along the Duck Creek corridor, back to Cardinal (Lane) in some places, back to Memorial (Drive) in some places, north, going north, from the bay water coming back into Duck Creek, all the way perhaps even up to Woodale (Avenue)…”
Janke said a strong wind out of the northeast, along with a couple of inches of rain, could result in a 3-4-foot buildup of the bay, which is near the all-time water level height.
“That would be a mess in the Village of Howard,” he said. “So, we are preparing for the worst-case flash flooding in the village.”
To plan for the safety of village residents in the event of an emergency, the board approved an updated emergency operations plan.
Janke said the plan outlines how to manage an event in Howard locally, and not give to Brown County to manage, until such time the village does not have the resources to contribute.
Trustee Cathy Hughes thanked Janke for the plan addressing more hazards than just flooding.
“We have a chemical plant here, we have railroads here, we’re on the north runway area for the airport,” she said. “Emergencies could happen here – they can and they may – and we want to be ready, and being proactive is your best way of handling this, not reactive.”