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Flood of 2008 changed landscape, taught lessons

Published On: Jun 10 2013 01:43:32 AM CDT
Updated On: Jun 10 2013 06:53:36 AM CDT

Five years after Lake Delton drained during the historic 2008 flooding, much has changed at the lake but some hard feelings remain.

On June 9, 2008, after a weekend of heavy rain, water broke through County Road A and rushed into the nearby Wisconsin River. The resulting erosion swept three homes away and destroyed two others.

While a public park and a rebuilt road are now situated on the once-devastated area, a group of five homeowners are appealing a Sauk County judge's decision to throw out their case. The homeowners claim the Village of Lake Delton didn't do enough to prevent the lake from emptying, but village leaders have contended they acted appropriately.

"The flood was just of such monumental proportions that no one had ever seen anything like this before -- and hopefully, not again," said Ted Waskowski, the village's attorney.

Key to Judge James Evenson's decision was the plaintiff's dam expert, who conceded that the village couldn't have done anything differently to stop the destruction, Waskowski said.

Kim Grimmer, the plaintiffs' attorney, said the homeowners are appealing one aspect of the case -- that the village used their land as an auxiliary spillway to prevent a nearby dam from over-topping.

"The use of the plaintiffs' land to release flood waters across Highway A and down to the Wisconsin River just north of their land led to erosion that permanently deprived the plaintiffs of their real and personal property," Grimmer said in a statement.

The use of private property for public use requires compensation under state and federal constitutions, Grimmer said.

The homeowner group received $2 million after the state condemned their properties, Waskowski said.

Meanwhile, the devastated area looks much different five years after the flooding.

Where the destroyed homes once stood, people fished off a pier in a public park Sunday.

Crews rebuilt County Road A to hold back Lake Delton, which sits at a higher elevation, from the Wisconsin River.

It's unknown when the appeals court in Madison will make a ruling on the case. That could take four to five months, or longer if the judges want to hear oral arguments, Grimmer said.

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