by ZACH KAYSER
The city of Arcadia has a new lease on life for their flood protection plan.
A possible $14.6-million grant from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), combined with a new cost-sharing agreement between the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has given new momentum to the project to strengthen levees and flood control structures in Arcadia.
Nanette Bischoff, project manager with the Corps of Engineers, said the agency higher-ups approved a report on the plan, which also helped allow the corps to progress to the next step in development.
The project costs have not changed, but the percentage of the cost that the city is expected to pay has changed. As the project moves out of what the Corps terms the “feasibility phase” and moves into the “implementation phase,” the ratio changes from a 50-50 split to 35-65. Although the city ostensibly only has to pay 35 percent of the costs to actually build the flood control measures, there is a cap on the amount the Corps can contribute. They’re limited to about $8.9 million more than what they have already invested, Bischoff said.
Even if the $8.9 million is supplemented by the $14.6 million DNR grant, Arcadia still has to find more than $13 million in additional funding, since the total project cost is about $37-40 million.
Bischoff anticipated an attempt to cut down project costs with possible changes to the flood protection plan. If design started this year, she said, they could award their first construction contract in 2022 and complete the construction in 2025. And if a flood happens before construction is done? “They’ll have to fight floods the way they do now,” Bischoff said.
The project timeline can be shortened, she said, by building different segments of the flood protection infrastructure at the same time.
Arcadia City Administrator Chad Hawkins said Wisconsin elected officials are due to weigh in on the DNR grant next month. “So, we’re kind of moving in the right direction, but we’re still at the mercy of the Wisconsin legislature,” he said.
The DNR already approved the grant at the agency level earlier this year, Hawkins said.
The boundaries of federally designated flood plains will not be reassessed until after the project is completed, Hawkins said. So the insurance bills of Arcadia residents might not be alleviated because of the project for several years at least.
“Even then, it’s not a guarantee that anyone will be taken out of the flood [zone],” Hawkins said.
In Wisconsin, cities are only allowed to borrow a certain amount of money relative to the city’s assessed value. In Arcadia’s case, that’s about $10 million, Hawkins said. He raised the possibility of stretching the project over a longer period of time in order to have financing available; either from Arcadia itself or from outside donations.
“If we can do it in the five-year plan, absolutely,” Hawkins said of the timeline for the project. “If it takes us 20 [years], it might take us 20.”