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Spring rains, snowmelt and high-water tables continue to cause flooding problems across the state

Contact(s): Keith Patrick, DNR wetlands and waterways, 715-409-9016
June 14, 2019 at 9:05:17 am

RHINELANDER - Over the past several years Wisconsin has received a record-breaking amount of precipitation resulting in high water and flooding issues in several areas across the state.

Many lakes and rivers have flooded this spring and many waterways are still well above normal for this time of year from Bayfield and Vilas counties in Northern Wisconsin to Rock County in the south and from the Fox Valley to the Mississippi River.

Bayfield County temporarily closed County Highway N because of high water on Pigeon Lake and is expected to remain closed for several weeks. Piers and shorelines are underwater on Joyce Lake in Vilas County because water levels are so high.

In the south, a private campground on Clear Lake in Rock County recently received a permit to raise an access road that has been flooded by rising waters since spring. Crystal and Fish lakes in Columbia and Dane counties are seepage lakes - lakes without inlets or outlets - that have had a history of flooding out shorelines and homes for years. Many of the lots at the campgrounds and resorts around the lake have been flooded for months.

"At this time of the year we would normally see water levels starting to recede, but the problem is made worse by the rising groundwater and river levels," said Keith Patrick, a DNR wetland and waterways team leader in Rhinelander. "The problems are generally most pronounced right now at many seepage lakes and are usually closely associated with groundwater. The reality is that on many seepage lakes water levels will not recede until groundwater levels decline."

In some areas, water levels in long-term groundwater monitoring wells are higher than they have been since the 1930s. Rivers are also running very high in many areas.

Rock and Jefferson counties currently have slow-no-wake ordinances in place on the Rock River. Sauk County has one on the Wisconsin River and Waushara County has one on the Wolf River because of elevated river levels.

In addition, Mississippi River flooding in April and May hit many areas across Trempealeau and La Crosse counties, and in March, flooding events in Green Bay, Fond du Lac and Manitowoc closed several roadways.

"For private property issues, homeowners flood insurance may be best suited to assist the property owners during a difficult time," Patrick said.

Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) has a flooding hazard mitigation program that could assist some people in preventing future flood damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also has a Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant Program that can direct people to federal resources available to lessen the impact of flooding.

If residents have questions about flooding and seepage lakes, more information is available on the DNR website,, search keyword "flood" or "waterway," and select the link in the right side navigation panel for "Waterway team contacts."

Last Revised: Friday, June 14, 2019

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