It is spring, and the floods have started again. We in the north are all too familiar with this pattern. Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Iron, and Barron Counties have all been the sites of flooding disasters in the past 10 years. Over that time, the state of Wisconsin reported roughly $365 million in property damage from flooding. And for the most part, our state programs have focused on replacing structures, repairing roads and bridges, and cleaning up after flood events — only to see the same culverts destroyed and the same roads washed out year after year.

Working with a diverse array of organizations, I authored a bill with Representative Loren Oldenburg from Viroqua that would drastically change our state’s approach. Our recent AB 222 / SB 222, the pre-disaster flood resilience grant, will create a program that uses scientific and conservation techniques to achieve the dual purposes of restoring wetlands and reducing flooding. We want to encourage natural flood management, allowing the land to capture, store, and slowly release runoff.

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