Lake Mendota, which is managed artificially high for the benefit of boaters, last summer reached dangerously high levels for the third time in less than two decades, causing widespread flooding and raising grave concerns ("Madison Flooding Catastrophe Feared," 6/13/08).
On Aug. 15, the city officially asked the state Department of Natural Resources to conduct a local lake-level review, a politically contentious move that some felt was long overdue. But the waiting, it seems, has just begun.
On Monday, the DNR responded by saying, in effect, that the city needed to take the lead in doing more while recognizing that nothing can be done unless many more entities are brought into the process.
DNR Secretary Matthew Frank said the city needed to "request a specific desired water-level regime as a starting point" after conducting "an initial round of information gathering and intergovernmental cooperation." It also needed to build a consensus for change among 22 governmental units and user groups, including "at least 10 towns, cities and villages" that would be affected by the change.
None of this, noted Matthews, can possibly be done by next spring, as the city had asked. And so the DNR suggests some interim measures: more studies, steps to "buy out or flood-proof structures that are prone to flooding," bar the construction of new dwellings with basements, and build infiltration systems in parks and encourage rain gardens to reduce runoff.
In other words, let's hope 2009 is a rain-light year.