New flooding bedevils WI village

Uncertainty plagues response as federal and state officials disagree on when -- or if -- village can rebuild

ROCK SPRINGS, WI | July 13, 2008

FLOODING AGAIN -- Emergency officials prepared for a second round of flooding just a month following this devastating flood in Rock Springs. Some local residents are questioning if the town will survive.
Credit: FEMA/Barry Bahler

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Baraboo River through Tuesday, confounding attempts by this small village to begin rebuilding following a devastating flood last month.

Severe storms Thursday and Friday washed out county roads and swelled already high streams near this Sauk County village of 500.

Emergency officials stacked sandbags around buildings where repairs have already begun as other residents and business owners say they are frustrated by what some suggest is an impasse between State and Federal officials.

In Rock Springs, the river passed flood stage Friday afternoon, but most homes along the town's River Street have been vacant since the June flooding when many buildings were flooded up to the second floor level.

A meeting Friday with Federal and State officials was held to help answer questions about whether residents will be able to rebuild. A number of homeowners who had flood insurance suffered damage of more than 50 percent of their home's value, making the homes eligible for a buyout program.

Harlan Behnke, Rock Springs' Village President, said business owners have been told buildings that were damaged and within the flood zone, would not be able to be rebuilt or expanded. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who attended the meeting said aid would not be available to business owners who rebuild.

"So, basically, you're saying the town is dead," Behnke said. "You're saying, 'What you see is what you get, and there will never be more.'"

Federal officials said it was unclear if that was true and suggested the town ask the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for clarification of the issue.

On Saturday, flood waters had already passed flood stage once again. Complicating the renewed flooding was a large amount of debris left in the river after the June flooding. Federal and State officials each said the debris removal was the responsibility of the other.

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