Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed 2023 Wisconsin Act 265 (formerly Senate Bill 222) into law today, which creates a State Pre-Disaster Flood Resilience Grant. The new competitive grant program enables flood-prone communities to assess the root causes of flood vulnerabilities and strategically restore wetlands, streams, and floodplains to reduce flood risks.

The Legislature and Governor approved $2 million for the new program in the 2023-25 state budget. According to the budget provision, the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs must submit a plan to the Legislative Joint Committee on Finance for release of the funding to develop and administer the program.

Wisconsin State Representative Loren Oldenburg (second from left) is one of the bill’s authors.

The program enables local governments to apply for assessment grants (capped at $300,000 for a project) or implementation grants (capped at $250,000 for a project). Assessment grants support gathering data about flood vulnerabilities at the watershed, catchment, or stream-reach scale. The information gathered through an assessment will help local governments understand current conditions, which is the first step to improving them.

Where data indicates degraded conditions of wetlands, streams, and floodplains are compounding the flooding problem, the program enables implementation grants for hydrologic restoration. The projects enabled through an implementation grant restore the landscape’s natural ability to store, infiltrate, and slowly release runoff, helping to reduce flood damage and protect important infrastructure like roads.

The Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Wisconsin Towns Association, and Wisconsin Council of Trout Unlimited were early collaborators with legislative authors Representatives Loren Oldenburg (Viroqua) and Todd Novak (Dodgeville), and Senator Romaine Quinn (Cameron) on this proposal and issued the following comments.

Wisconsin Towns Association logo

Flooding exacts a heavy public safety and economic toll on local government and the communities they represent. The steps taken to create and fund a Pre-Disaster Flood Resilience Grant will help towns mitigate flooding damage before it happens by helping them assemble the right information, experts, and strategies to reduce flood damage risks.

Mike Koles

Executive Director, Wisconsin Towns Association

Wisconsin Wetlands Logo

The Pre-Disaster Flood Resilience Grant program fills critical gaps in Wisconsin’s efforts to reduce flood damages. It recognizes how degraded hydrology contributes to flood risks and elevates the restoration of wetlands, streams, and floodplains as a cost-effective and essential flood risk reduction strategy.

Jennifer Western Hauser

Legislative Liaison, Wisconsin Wetlands Association

Trout Unlimited Wisconsin logo

From decades of working with local, state, and federal partners, TU understands that when our wetlands and streams are functioning properly to store and slow floodwaters, that provides benefits for flood resilience and the natural habitat depended upon by our cold-water fisheries.

Mike Kuhr

Advocacy Chair, Trout Unlimited

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