Last year's September floods are fresh in our minds, and we should continue to work on mitigation efforts to prevent similar events in the future.
It's human nature to think one big solution will fix everything, but experts say flood control is most successful with many smaller steps. And that's been the path for Madison since the 1993 flood.
Consider the work that's been done in the past 27 years: a flood buyout program that removed the most vulnerable homes in the flood plain; replacement of a number of bridges over Memorial Creek to add capacity (including two more this summer); increased storm sewer capacity in parts of the city to allow more water to pass underground; and flood consideration in the design of new housing developments to allow for water detention in times of need.
There is plenty more work to be done, which leads us to consider what is happening in Brookings.
Four faculty members in the South Dakota State University School of Design have looked into green methods to manage stormwater that can reduce runoff, an idea that could work in Madison, as well.
"Green stormwater infrastructure uses soil and plants to capture water in a distributed, disconnected network of practices throughout the landscape," said landscape architecture instructor Jeremiah Bergstrom. That can mean adding native grasses, bushes and trees on the edge of a parking lot, installing a rain garden in the back yard or planting perennials in the boulevard to capture runoff in a residential area.
A grant from the California Landscape Architectural Student Scholarship Fund and matching funds from the East Dakota Water Development District are funding the research in Brookings. Presumably, the research would be available to other similar cities, like Madison.
"Because this approach utilizes lots of little fixes, engaging city officials and community members is integral to implementing these techniques -- and maintaining the structures," said associate professor Pat Crawford, director of the School of Design.
The good news for Madison is that the city controls much of the property abutting both Memorial Creek and Silver Creek. The properties could be reshaped and constructed without affecting nearby homeowners too much.
But controlling the land is only the first step. A comprehensive project would require a lot of study and decisions by engineers and landscape architects. Soil types, watershed characteristics, land uses and much more need to be considered.
We'd love to see the City of Madison embrace the idea of managing stormwater runoff through green methods. And the Brookings project is the perfect starting point.
-- Jon M. Hunter