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Creating a plan to battle flooding city streets

La Crosse hires consultant to take closer look at city's storm water system

Creating a plan to battle flooding city streets

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - With rain in the forecast and high water levels in the Mississippi River, La Crosse streets will continue to see some flooding. That is because certain parts of the city's storm water system are showing their age -- but La Crosse officials are trying to put a stop to the flooding streets.

Some of the pipes making up the city storm water system are 100 years old and can't handle the amount of water going through the system. That is what is causing some city streets to look like swimming pools.

The city of La Crosse has now hired a consultant to make a model of our storm system and help identify those problem areas.

As La Crosse has developed many storm sewers under the city streets have stayed the same.

"As the city grew and expanded more areas got tied into those pipes and those pipes are undersized now," Bernard Lenz, assistant city engineer for La Crosse, said.

So La Crosse officials are taking about $130,000 out of this year's city storm water utility budget and putting it toward finding the problem areas.

"What this study is doing is looking at all those pipes, looking at those existing conditions, forecast conditions and seeing where our inadequacies are," Lenz said.

Lenz said it's important to know what needs to be fixed because storm water systems are very complex and fixing the flooded street might not be the answer.

"If we have a flooded intersection obviously the water might be coming out of the sewer there, but it might be four, six, eight blocks down that the problem is," Lenz said.

"Some of these flooding issues is you have to start at the river either with another pipe or a larger pipe and then work your way into the point where you can actually make some impact on those areas that are flooding," Mark Johnson, utilities manager for the city of La Crosse, said.

"We're talking millions of dollars in improvements," Lenz said.

After the two-year study is done the city will have a clear picture of what area needs the most attention.

"We can use that as a planning tool for budgeting, planning, prioritizing, all of those things to try to address the issues that we have," Johnson said.

Currently the city decides if a storm sewer needs work when they do maintenance on a road, but after the model is made they may target street repairs based on the needs of the storm system in that area.

The first phase of the project has begun and funding will come from the storm water utility operating budget. The second phase will take place next year and will need approval from the city council to conclude the study.

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