Rivers and Dams Issue Report by alicejenny

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									                               2003 ISSUE REPORT

                                RIVERS AND DAMS

ISSUE REPORT

MANAGING RIVERS AND DAMS IN WISCONSIN

Rivers and dams have formed an important part of Wisconsin's past, and the maintenance
of safe conditions on Wisconsin's rivers and reservoirs is of critical importance in the
future. River flooding and flooding caused by dam failure have the potential for great
property damage and loss of life. Wisconsin has a large number of rivers and streams,
most of which present a certain degree of flood hazard. However, the state does not have
a large physical infrastructure related to flood control, such as extensive levee systems or
flood control reservoirs.

The protection of public safety from river flooding is mainly provided by state and local
community floodplain management programs, and in this sense, the floodplain
management program is an important component of the state’s water resource
management infrastructure.

Dams and reservoirs, in contrast, are a tangible aspect of the state’s water resource
infrastructure. The state’s dam safety infrastructure involves both the physical stability
of the dams within the state as well as the administrative programs to monitor dam safety.

The evaluation of the rivers and dams in the state of Wisconsin for the purposes of the
2003 infrastructure report card was developed combining the issues of floodplain
management and the management of dam and reservoir safety. These two issues have
been evaluated separately, as reported in the following sections of this report. The
combined result of the evaluation is presented in the report card grade for rivers and
dams.


FLOODPLAIN MAPPING

Definition of Issue – Flood Mapping

Flooding is a major cause of property damage and can result in loss of life. Since 1995,
Wisconsin has had seven Presidential disaster declarations for floods. In 2001, the
Presidential disaster declaration resulted in the disbursement of nearly $13.5 million to 22
Wisconsin counties. More than $4 million was spent rebuilding roads, bridges, utilities
and water control facilities.




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Floodplain management has been practiced in Wisconsin since the enabling legislation
was passed in 1967. Under the law, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has
the responsibility to insure that every Wisconsin County, City or Village that could
experience flood damages adopt and enforce a floodplain zoning ordinance. Ordinances,
which must meet minimum state standards, are used to regulate new development so that
it is less susceptible to be damaged by flooding.

In 1968, the federal government passed the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
The NFIP was based on the premise that land-use regulations would slow the growth of
building in flood-prone areas and stem the rate of increase in federal disaster assistance
paid out for flood damages. The federal government promised to make flood insurance
available within communities that agreed to adopt and enforce land-use regulations.

Both programs rely on the legal authority local units of government have to adopt and
enforce land-use controls. In order for a community to adopt land-use controls and
regulate development on private property, it must provide “due public notice” of the
regulations and where they are to be applied. The courts have ruled that the only feasible
way to make sure the public is properly informed is to create a map that depicts where the
regulations will be applied. These floodplain maps define the limits of flooding within
communities, and are the “infrastructure” of floodplain management. They are the focus
of this section because floodplain management cannot succeed without adequate,
accurate floodplain maps.


Statement of Existing Conditions – Flood Mapping

Wisconsin’s floodplain management code incorporates conservative procedures for
defining floodway areas, to limit the placement of new development in areas of flood
risk. In addition, floodplain definition downstream of dams takes into account the effect
of potential dam failure. These approaches are among the most conservative in the
nation.

Current, accurate flood maps can help reduce the loss of life and property, protect
financial interests in property for both property owners and lending institutions, and
reduce disaster relief expenditures. But, flood maps need to be updated regularly. Flood
hazard conditions are dynamic due to natural and man-made changes. Development
creates new streets and alters road networks and drainage patterns. As undeveloped areas
experience development pressure, more detailed flood hazard analyses are needed.

The current stock of flood hazard maps has for the most part been provided by FEMA
under the NFIP. There are over 1,800 map panels in place for Wisconsin’s communities.
However, the average age of the maps is 16 years and the oldest was produced in 1974.
Many of the maps are based on approximate studies that do not provide predicted flood
elevations – valuable information to determine how to protect a building against flooding.



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In the mid-1980’s, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources administered a grant
program to help communities update and improve maps of their floodplain and shoreland
areas. The program was popular with progressive communities that recognized the value
in updating their floodplain zoning maps. Unfortunately, the program was a casualty of
tight economic times and was never revived when the economy improved.

The stock of flood hazard maps is old and growing increasingly outdated each year.
Most of the maps were created using antiquated cartographic techniques long ago
replaced by computer-aided mapping tools.


Trends – Flood Mapping

FEMA’s FY 2003 budget request includes substantial new funding for Map
Modernization. If passed as proposed by President Bush, FEMA's FY 2003 budget for
flood hazard mapping will go from $50 million to $350 million. The administration has
indicated its commitment to a similar level of funding for FY 2004 and FY 2005.

Despite the possibility of good news regarding federal funding, funding of floodplain
mapping projects in Wisconsin may be limited by the requirement that states or
communities provide a minimum of 20% of the project costs. Congress has expressed its
concern that state and local government must take some responsibility for improving and
maintaining flood maps.


Issues and Concerns – Flood Mapping

Federal funding for flood hazard map modernization may be a “one time only”
opportunity. This is the first time in nearly 20 years to make real progress in updating the
aging stock of flood hazard maps. The state of Wisconsin must be prepared to take
advantage of this opportunity while it lasts. Funding is needed to provide the 20% match
with federal funds.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has requested funding for the
Wisconsin Waters IT Initiate – Phase 2. This initiative could provide the source of funds
needed to provide the 20% match.




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Conclusions - Flood Mapping

   Π Sufficiency of Funding
     Funding is necessary to cost-share with FEMA to modernize Flood Insurance
     Rate Maps (FIRMs). If FEMA’s budget is passed as proposed, a window of
     opportunity to update all FIRMs in the state will exist for a few short years.
     However, to take advantage of this opportunity, the state must be prepared to
     provide the anticipated 20% local share funding. Subsequent to the initial push to
     do a major upgrade, there will be a continuing need for periodic map
     maintenance. Funding for a grant program similar to the “Floodplain and
     Shoreland Mapping Grant Program” that was popular in the mid-1980’s is
     warranted to provide an incentive to local government to diligently update and
     maintain the flood maps in the future.

   Π Needed Policies
       Sufficient policies are generally in place; the “needed” is for continued upgrading and
       maintenance of floodplain mapping, as discussed above.


Report Card Grade for Flood Mapping

Despite the state’s protective codes and regulations, the grade for floodplain maps is a
D+, due to the current situation of out-of-date floodplain maps and DNR staffing
limitations. The grade could by “brought up” substantially in the next few years if the
state acts aggressively to qualify for cost sharing for likely expanded federal funding for
map upgrades.


DAM SAFETY

Definition of Issue – Dam Safety

Dams have been constructed in Wisconsin since the early 1800’s. These dams have been
used to provide reservoir water supplies for milling grain, sawing logs, generating
electricity, flood reduction, water supply and recreational purposes. Dams, however, can
pose a threat to life, health and property if they are not properly designed, constructed
and maintained.

There are approximately 3,700 dams in the state of Wisconsin, of which approximately
1,250 are large dams and the remainder small dams. The definition of a large dam is one
that is greater than 6 feet in height and creating an impoundment of 50 acre-feet or more,
or at least 25 feet high with impoundment of more than 15 acre-feet.

Approximately 250 of the large dams in the state are regulated directly by the federal
government, mainly by either the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (for dams used
to generate electricity) or by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (for Corps-operated
Locks and Dams).
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The state of Wisconsin regulates the remaining approximately 1,000 large dams and all of
the small dams in the state, using jurisdiction in Chapter 31, State Statutes. Dam safety
regulation in Wisconsin is based on the public trust doctrine applicable to navigable
waterways, as defined in the State Constitution. Dams are classified by the state with
respect to size as well as potential hazard. Dams that pose a threat to life are classified as
“high hazard” dams. Dams that pose a threat to property are classified as “significant
hazard”, and dams that pose little threat to life, health, or property are classified as “low
hazard” dams. The dams regulated by the state have a much more diverse ownership
than those regulated directly by the federal government.

A small number of dams, such as dams that are not located on a watercourse, are not
regulated by either the federal government or by the state.

The focus of this report is on the dams that are regulated by the state of Wisconsin.


Statement of Existing Conditions – Dam Safety

Existing state regulations set conservative standards for dam design and repair. State
technical staff currently spends much of their time on approvals for new dams, dam
transfer, and working with owners of dams that have been inspected on follow-up and
repair plan approval.

Since 1986, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has had the responsibility to
inspect each large dam on a navigable waterway at least once every 10 years. However,
this inspection program is running behind.

The state’s dam repair and removal grant program for municipally-owned dams has
provided approximately $11.5 million in cost share funding, facilitating remediation of
approximately 90 municipally-owned dams. However, the program has not received new
funding for over three years.


Trends – Dam Safety

Many new dams have been constructed in the past 25 years over which the Department of
Natural Resources has little or no jurisdiction. Only large dams across navigable waters
of the state are inspected in the state’s decennial inspection program. Over 80 large dams
(70% constructed since 1975), are on non-navigable streams, and are not subject to
routine DNR safety inspections. Dams for manure storage, stormwater detention, and
mine tailings can pose serious threats to downstream properties, but are not considered
dams under the statutes and are, therefore, not subject to the same dam safety regulations
as dams on navigable streams.




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Issues and Concerns – Dam Safety

Since 1986, the Wisconsin DNR has only inspected approximately 70% the large dams at
least once, yet the law dictates that each large dam must be inspected at least once every
ten years. With approximately 1,000 known state-regulated large dams on navigable
waterways, DNR staff should inspect 100 annually to meet the “once every 10-year”
statutory requirement, but in 2001, only 50 dams were inspected. DNR needs additional
staff to carry out these required inspections.

Many dams that could pose a threat to downstream properties (manure storage,
stormwater detention, mine tailings, farm ponds, and grade stabilization structures) are
located on non-navigable streams and thus, exempt from the mandatory DNR
inspections, or are not located on a watercourse and, therefore, not regulated as a dam
under the statutes. DNR needs the statutory authority to make inspections on all large
dams and issue orders, if needed, for repair or removal of any dam-like structure that
poses a threat to life, health, or property.

Dams constructed for the specific purpose of growing cranberries are exempt from
virtually all dam safety rules and regulations. DNR needs the authority to inspect and
order repairs to cranberry dams.

Several dams have fallen into a state of total disrepair, yet the owners cannot be located.
Funding to remove abandoned dams is critical to avoid a failure and resulting property
damage, or worse, deaths.

The state’s dam repair and removal grant program has been well received and has
resulted in many municipally-owned dams being repaired. This program has provided
approximately $11.5 million in cost share funding, facilitating remediation of
approximately 90 municipally-owned dams. However, the program has not received new
funding in over three years. Funding must be restored to this very important program and
the maximum grant available under the program must be raised.

Conclusions – Dam Safety

   Π Sufficiency of Funding
     Funding is needed to add sufficient staff to meet the legislative intent of
     inspecting all large dams once every ten years. Sufficient funds should be made
     available to DNR to remove abandoned dams that pose a serious threat to life or
     property. Funding should be restored for the repair/removal grant program, and
     the maximum grant should be increased from $200,000 to $500,000.

   Π Needed Policies
     DNR needs to be provided the authority to inspect all large dams, regardless of
     stream classification. In addition, DNR needs the authority to issue repair orders
     for dams that pose a threat to life, health, or property, whether or not they are on a
     watercourse.

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Report Card Grade – Dam Safety

The grade for dam safety is a D-, related to the availability of sufficient staff and
resources for the state to monitor and report on dam safety, and also with respect to
funding assistance for dam owners to complete needed repairs. Additionally, policy gaps
in the applicability of dam safety regulations need to be addressed.


COMPOSITE REPORT CARD GRADE FOR RIVERS AND DAMS

The report card grade for Rivers and Dams is a D. This grade is a composite of the
grades for floodplain management and dam safety management:

Despite the state’s protective codes and regulations, the grade for floodplain mapping is a
D+, due to the current situation of out-of-date floodplain maps and DNR staffing
limitations. The grade could by “brought up” substantially in the next few years if the
state acts aggressively to qualify for cost sharing for likely expanded federal funding for
map upgrades.

The grade for dam safety is a D-, related to the availability of sufficient staff and
resources for the state to monitor and report on dam safety, and also with respect to
funding assistance for dam owners to complete needed repairs. Additionally, policy gaps
in the applicability of dam safety regulations need to be addressed. As with the flood
mapping program, the dam safety grade could be improved substantially with relatively
modest funding and code amendment.


Source Information

1. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

2. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

3. Association of State Floodplain Managers, Inc. (ASFPM)




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