As rain keeps falling, flooding solution eludes Port officials

City continues to weigh options that include infrastructure improvements, possible financial assistance for homeowners

A PHOTO taken in August 2018 shows the debris-strewn yard of a house on South Spring Street in Port Washington after flood waters that damaged homes in the area resided. Press file photo
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

A year after major flooding hit Port Washington, city officials are still grappling with the question of how best to mitigate flooding on the city’s west side and along Lake Street.

The options being studied include infrastructure changes, such as modifications to the Spinnaker West detention pond and enlarging the North Spring Street culvert, to providing financial assistance to homeowners who have experienced repeated flooding to eliminate walk-out basements that allow water into their homes.

“We’re 13 months into it. When is there going to be a vote on this?” Dave Ross, who owns a duplex at 240-242 N. Spring St., asked the board.

Last week’s deluge, which was lighter than that experienced a year ago but still flooded some of those houses, also drew comments from a few residents.

Linda Williams, 223 N. Spring St., whose lower level filled with water last year, told the board, “My basement had two feet of water in it last Monday.”

Stantec, the city’s engineering consultant on the flooding issue, presented a study to the Board of Public Works Tuesday that outlined four potential solutions to flooding in what’s been termed the Larabee Street basin.

They include increasing the capacity of the Spinnaker West detention pond, increasing the size of the Spring Street culvert, creating a stormwater pond in the Simplicity Manufacturing parking lot and enlarging the diameter of the pipe leading from the Simplicity property to Sauk Creek.

“The intent is to hold back the water and make conveyance improvements to release the water in a controlled way,” Rich Klein, senior associate with Stantec, told the board.

The pipe leading from the Simplicity property is smaller than the culvert leading to the area, causing a chokepoint, Klein said.

Although the city had previously looked at creating a stormwater retention area in City Park and adding culverts on both Garfield and Crocker avenues, Klein said those measures are not needed.

Stantec’s recommendation is that the city improve the Spinnaker West pond, replace the existing 54-inch Spring Street culvert with a 5-by-8 foot one and perhaps replacing the 42-inch diameter pipe leading from Simplicity east to Sauk Creek with a 72-inch one, measures that would largely protect from a 100-year storm.

To protect against a 500-year storm, the city would need to expand the size of the Spring Street culvert to 5-by-10 feet and install the Simplicity pipe.

The cost of the pond improvements is estimated at $285,000, the 5-by-8 foot culvert at $310,000 and the Simplicity pipe at $771,000, a total of $1.571 million.

A 5-by-10 foot culvert would probably not cost significantly more than the 5-by-8 foot culvert, Klein said.

Ald. John Sigwart, a member of the board, asked whether the city should be protecting residents from a 100-year or a 500-year storm, a question the board didn’t answer.

Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven floated the idea of the city providing financial assistance to property owners who would floodproof their houses by eliminating the walk-out basements.

That might make it possible to prevent property damage in a 100-year storm without any infrastructure improvements, he said, potentially at a cheaper cost.

“Can we spend public money on private property improvements?” Sigwart asked, noting there are only three severe cases that may benefit from the measure.

City Administrator Mark Grams asked the property owners at the meeting if they would be willing to eliminate the walk-out basements, and at least two indicated they would consider it.

The board directed Grams to confer with City Attorney Eric Eberhardt to see if that is a legal solution.

The board took no action on the study but will discuss the matter again at its Tuesday, Nov. 12, meeting.

Stantec is also studying flood mitigation measures along Valley Creek at Lake Street, where the Lighthouse Condominium building has flooded during serious storms.

The city’s water plant on Lake Street was also threatened with flooding during last year’s storm.

The Lighthouse Condominium board is expected to update the Public Works Board in November about measures the association has taken to eliminate flooding.

The association has also asked to be included in discussions about the various flood mitigation options being studied by the city, board Chairman Jason Wittek said.

Vanden Noven said he hopes that the Public Works Board will make a decision on flood mitigation measures for both Lake Street and the Larabee Street basin by early next year.

These recommendations will then be considered by the city’s Finance and License Committee and the Common Council.

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