Dane County Board of Supervisors
United States of America

Climate disruption fueled weather recently caused a ~15" rainbomb to fall in Dane County west of Madison, more than ever before in Wisconsin's recorded history. Some of that unnaturally high rain event fell in the Yahara watershed and flowed into Lake Mendota, which has– in compliance with the WDNR's 1979 Lake Orders– been managed at a level, 5-8 feet above its natural elevation (benchmarked to the early 1830s, before the dam at Tenney Park was built). Furthermore, the rainbomb fell near a Lake Mendota being managed by Dane County such that its elevation was higher than the Maximum of the Summer Range of the 1979 Orders. Such exceedances have become more frequent on all four Yahara lakes, especially during the past 10 years, as climate disruption has accelerated, causing more frequent and intense storms.

A Lake Mendota managed at its natural level would provide much more capacity for stormwater run-off, better protecting surrounding communities, especially downstream areas like Madison's isthmus neighborhoods and Monona's shores, but also all surrounding communities. Better land and surface water management is also necessary, but will be insufficient so long as Lake Mendota is held at an un-natural high level.


The signers of this petition request that Dane County supervisors, at their next board meeting, resolve that the county executive direct county staff to:

1) REIMBURSE COUNTY PROPERTY OWNERS: By 15 October 2018, design and implement a program to reimburse private property owners who are without flood insurance to compensate them for any losses suffered due to county management of the Yahara Lakes such that levels– regularly across the past several decades, and during summer 2018– exceeded the Summer Range Maximum of the WDNR 1979 Lake Orders;

2) MAXIMIZE NEAR-TERM PUBLIC SAFETY: Manage the Yahara lakes at six inches below the Summer Range Minimum of the 1979 WDNR Lake Orders, as soon as conditions allow;

3) RESEARCH NATURAL LAKE LEVELS: Determine, by soil borings in undisturbed areas or other evidence-based means, the natural (benchmarked to pre-Original Survey or 1830) elevation, including average seasonal range, for each of the Yahara lakes and Lake Wingra, as soon as possible, and no later than 15 October 2018;

4) LOWER LAKE MENDOTA’S LEVEL: Lower Lake Mendota from its current unnatural high level (estimated to be 5-8' higher than before the Tenney dam was built in 1848) by three additional inches per year, beginning in autumn 2019, and take all other necessary action toward restoring Lake Mendota to its natural elevation and average natural seasonal range (adjusted for forecasted climate disruption), as soon as feasible, and no later than 2040 (i.e., in one generation);

5) ADJUST THE OTHER YAHARA AREA LAKE LEVELS AS NEEDED: Lower any other Yahara area lake that is determined to be unnaturally high, by at least one inch per year, beginning in autumn 2019, and take all other necessary action, toward restoring all these lake to their natural elevation and average natural seasonal range (adjusted for forecasted climate disruption), as soon as feasible, and no later than 2020;

6) SECURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY FOR THE YAHARA WATERSHED: Lead intergovernmental action to, as soon as possible, and no later than 2050:

A) Re-wild the shoreline of each of the Yahara lakes and Lake Wingra, as well as the tributaries, so as to support environmental sustainability (estimated by lake researchers to be at least 75% of shoreline, preferably contiguous);

B) Restore lost natural wetlands (est. 50% of total 1830s wetland acreage) insofar as possible, and offset all remaining acres with new wetlands, as soon as feasible and no later than 2050;

C) Take all other actions necessary to restore the Yahara Watershed’s water quality and hydrology to natural conditions; and

7) REAFFIRM COUNTY CLIMATE ACTION LEADERSHIP: Direct the county climate council to, by December 2018, conclude creation of a Trail Map (strategic action plan) for forthcoming all-sector, countywide, climate action, by backcasting from the evidence-based climate action Framework & Goals formally endorsed in 2013 by representatives of municipalities with over 70% of Dane County's population, including the county, and by over 30 other diverse community entities.

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The Protect Yahara Communities From Un-Natural Flooding petition to Dane County Board of Supervisors was written by Jon Becker and is in the category Environment at GoPetition.