Leaky pipe spawns lake flood

A new drainage pipe was supposed to roll back the shorelines of Shell Lake, which have been steadily rising for the last 50 years.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | SHELL LAKE, Wisc. | June 17, 2003


A new drainage pipe was supposed to roll back the shorelines of Shell Lake, which have been steadily rising for the last 50 years.

Unfortunately for the people with beachfront property, that plan didn't work out the way it was supposed to.

When heavy rain caused a dike above the lake to fail in early June, more than 100 homes were flooded out. The pipe that was built to drain the pond turned out to be full of leaks. The situation was so bad that the Governor of Wisconsin declared a state of emergency.

Now the flooded-out residents are suing pretty much everybody involved in the pipe-drainage fiasco the City of Shell Lake, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the contractor, the pipe company and the construction company.

"We're expecting that this won't be the only lawsuit," said Shell Lake City Administrator Brad Pederson.

About 120 homes and cabins along the lake would be underwater right now, Pederson said, if it were not for the quarter million sandbags piled up along the shore. As it is, about a dozen residences are still flooded to some degree.

Pederson said the city hoped to correct this problem Monday, when they got the drainage pipe going again. They thought all the holes were patched. They were wrong.

Pederson said the pipe opened up at 4 a.m. Monday. By 10:30, it was springing leaks. By 11, water percolated up through the ground and flooded out a road.

Now Pederson thinks it's time to give up on the pipe and start on a new one. The City Council will hold a special meeting Wednesday night to decide the issue. The recommendation, from Pederson, the mayor, and the council president, is to build a smaller diameter, more structurally-sound pipe inside the leaky one. But based on preliminary estimates, that new pipe, if approved, won't be completed until November.


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