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Engineering professor leads public forum on lake flooding, water management

Lake levels have dropped. Shorelines submerged two months ago are dry again. The sandbags have been hauled away, the ban on wakes, lifted. But we haven't seen the last of flooding on Madison-area lakes. In fact, the more urban Dane County becomes, the more we should expect high water in the future.

Photo of Madison Isthmus.
As Dane County becomes more urban, flooding of area lakes will become even more common. Larger Image

So says Kenneth Potter, a civil and environmental engineering professor who has organized a public forum this fall to shed light on important issues raised by the floods of 2000. "High Stakes on the Yahara Lakes: The Future of Water Management in Dane County" is the theme of the forum, to be held Wednesdays in 1800 Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive.

"This year's flooding showed how vulnerable we are to high lake levels and episodes of flooding will likely become more common as development occurs in the watershed," said Potter. With that in mind, Potter believes the time is ripe for all people interested in the Yahara Lakes -- Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa, and Wingra -- to better understand the complexities of managing them.

He has recruited key local officials and watershed experts to speak at the forum, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. with a session on "Managing Yahara Lake Levels: Objectives, Opportunities, and Constraints" by Dane County public works director Kenneth Koscik and William Krug, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Starting times vary for subsequent sessions:

  • Sept. 27, 8 p.m., "Boat Wakes and Shore Erosion," Sue Jones, Dane County watershed management coordinator; and Chin Wu, assistant professor, civil and environmental engineering, UW-Madison.


  • Oct. 11, 7 p.m., "Cycles of Management for Lake Mendota: Crisis to Crisis, or Hope to Hope?" Stephen Carpenter, professor, Center for Limnology, UW-Madison.


  • Oct. 25, 7 p.m., "Water Management Begins in the Watershed," Carolyn Rumery Betz, watershed planner, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; and Kevin Connors, Dane County conservationist.


  • Nov. 8, 7 p.m., "The Floods of 2000: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," Potter and Roger Bannerman, environmental specialist, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


  • Nov. 15, 7:45 p.m., "Who Controls the Future of the Yahara Lakes?" Speaker to be announced later.

Potter expects several underlying messages to emerge from the forum, including:

  • Activities throughout the watershed, particularly those associated with urban development and agriculture, have critical effects on the lakes.


  • Management of lake levels and lakewater quality involves tradeoffs.


  • Even the most progressive stormwater control ordinances in the watershed today do not protect adequately against increased flooding as a byproduct of urban development.

The forum is free and open to anyone. UW-Madison students can earn academic credit by attending. Limited parking is available for $2 in the new ramp by Camp Randall Stadium, just west of Engineering Hall via Engineering Drive.

The forum is co-sponsored by the Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. For more information, contact Potter, 608/262-0040,