Waldo addresses dam, roadbuilding issues

Rodney Schroeter of The Review staff

WALDO —As a follow-up to its August meeting, the Village Board invited a representative of Ayres Associates to explain to the board how the Onion River Dam was classified as a “significant risk.”

Ellen B. Faulkner, PE, told the board that a year before, the DNR had requested a failure analysis be done of the dam. This was done by Ayres Associates. The draft report concludes that, if the dam were to fail during a “100-year flood,” the dam’s failure would cause the flooding to be about a foot higher than if it hadn’t failed. Therefore, under Wisconsin law, the Waldo dam is classified as a “significant hazard.”

(A 100-year flood is one that has a one percent likelihood of happening in any one year.)

There are three risk classifications for dams: low, significant, and high.

Faulkner said that the area inundated if the dam fails during a 100-year flood must be defined through zoning. “This is a DNR requirement,” she said. “It is a state of Wisconsin requirement. As far as I know, Wisconsin is the only state that requires land below dams to be zoned in this way.” No new development or major improvements to existing homes can be done within this “hydraulic shadow zone.”

This rezoning would be required, even if the dam were evaluated as a low hazard.

What does the classification of the dam as significant hazard mean for the village of Waldo?

Faulkner said, “The most substantial consequence, I believe, to the village, is that the spillway capacity, meaning the total amount of flow that the dam can pass before the water goes over the dam’s top, is not adequate anymore, under DNR requirements.

“We looked at the structures that you have, and we think maybe the fix would not be enormous. But there is no engineering project that’s not expensive.” Faulkner said the dam’s discharge capacity would have to be increased by roughly a third.

Faulkner could not give the board a cost for that but said, “Comparable projects we have done have been in the $200,000 to $400,000 range.”

Faulkner said there is a governby ment grant program to help municipalities repair dams, administered by the DNR, which pays about half the project cost. Most dams helped by that grant are rated high hazard, but a few rated as signifi- cant hazard have been included. But the zoning change is required to apply for that grant.

She said the DNR will typically allow cash-strapped municipalities a period of three years to comply with their requirement to improve the dam.

Faulkner was asked if there were grants available to remove the dam. She said there used to be, but no longer. Her company is doing quite a few dam removals. She said difficulties in dam removals are not so much engineering issues, but permitting, legal, and environmental issues.

Village President Dan Schneider asked, “How close are we on that borderline of low hazard / significant hazard?”

Faulkner replied, “About two and a half houses,” but did not elaborate. She described several factors that determine the classifi- cation.

Trustee Mike Hintz asked how much rainfall constituted a 100- year flood. Faulkner thought it was six inches in 24 hours (though she added that rainfall was not the only factor considered). Hintz said, “The reason I’m asking that is, we had fourteen inches of rain in about six hours, and I stood down there at the bank and I watched that dam. I was scared, actually. We did not open the secondary spillway because we couldn’t. I tried. (That secondary spillway has since been fully repaired.) The water height was probably a foot over both banks and flowed over the dam. I’ve never seen rain like that since, and that dam did just fine.”

Faulkner said they could possibly use that event to make the case that the dam would not need repair. Hintz thought that event could possibly even exceed the 500-year flood criteria. After a few minutes of searching with their cell phones, Hintz and Trustee Michele Preder were able to identify the precise date of the fourteeninch rainfall as Thursday, Aug. 6, 1998.

Schneider asked Faulkner to make every consideration possible to re-evaluate the dam’s classification. “We can’t afford to fix it, we can’t afford to take it out,” he said. “Even with the 50/50 funding, it would be difficult.” The treatment plant was put in not long ago, he said, which was a “great expense and a lot of hardship to the village.”

Faulkner agreed to review the report, and research the 1998 rainfall event.

Hintz asked what the consequences would be if the village did nothing with the dam. Faulkner replied that the DNR would send some heavy-handed letters. In the long run, the DNR has the authority to remove the dam and charge the village for its removal. “Has that ever happened, in my knowledge?” she asked. “No.” She added, howev- er, that dams have been removed when they were abandoned.

To pave, or not to pave?

Work has actually been started to pave Hunters Grove, which the village has planned for several years. The next stage, which can be done in the next couple of weeks, would be paving the road from the existing paving, to Blueberry Road.

But, Schneider said, developer Bill Haas has expressed interest in further development in that area. Schneider said if the town continues with the paving, and Haas’ project becomes a reality, the road would have to be torn up to install water and sewer.

Schneider said, “So the question comes to the board: Do we want to give Mr. Haas the opportunity to go another nine months or a year, and put the water and sewer in? Or, do we want to say we are going forward on our current plan we’ve had for—eight years?”

Schneider suggested giving the developer two weeks to decide if he would pay his current bill of approximately $40,000 within a thirty-day period. If Haas pays, the village would not pave the road, and would give Haas another year to plan for development. If he does not indicate that he will pay, the village would continue to pave, using funds from a letter of credit that has been set up between village and developer.

“By doing that, we will see exactly how committed to the project he is,” said Schneider.

Hintz said the window to do paving would close within the next two to three weeks. Schneider replied that before the end of that time, the village would know what course to take.

The board agreed on Schneider’s plan to contact developer Bill Haas, which Schneider planned to do the next day.

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