In my travels across SW Wisconsin as a state senate candidate, I’ve had the great privilege to hear both heart-wrenching stories of loss and heart-warming stories of heroic efforts as we recover from catastrophic flooding this past week. I am so proud of our volunteer spirit, our first responders and our public employees. And as someone who farms deep in the Pecatonica Valley, I feel the pain of those who lost livestock, crops, property and equipment to rising water. I’ve been there.
I also sympathize with those in the produce, manufacturing and shipping industries, as the many road closures in the district are now making it hard to get goods to market on time. I’ve been late for a few appointments this week, and we’ll all be dealing with the washouts for a while.
As a Lafayette County Board Supervisor, I’ve participated in local emergency management discussions, and I know the amount of state and national disaster funds that are dispersed in response to these events. It is fiscally irresponsible to merely pay for clean up when we need to man up as legislators and make the hard calls on planning, zoning and environmental regulations that would head off damage to homes, businesses and public works. And it’s morally irresponsible. People’s lives are at stake – our homes, our memories, our priceless and irreplaceable keepsakes ruined in the flood waters.
How do we do this? First, we look upstream of our communities and consider how land use changes, including wetlands loss, contribute to flood risks and damage. We identify, protect and restore wetlands, so they can function as sponges and holding areas for floods. We protect and enhance shoreline habitat to withstand dramatic rises in water levels. We reduce the use of impervious surfaces in urban areas. We design, plan and zone for more resilient infrastructure.
We are going backwards instead of forward on these practices in Wisconsin. My opponent in the State Senate race, incumbent Sen. Howard Marklein, has voted along party lines over and over again to allow accelerated development on wetlands and to prohibit counties from enacting their own water protection ordinances. He voted to weaken the DNR’s protection of wetlands, to cut DNR scientists and roll back groundwater management. Water policy is one of my top legislative priorities, and this past week illustrates just one reason why.
As cleanup efforts begin to wrap up, we’ll do well to reflect on our experience – just as I’ve taught my children to do when they suffer hard times. While we can’t do anything to avoid 11, 9 or 6-inch violent precipitation events, we can acknowledge the data that shows we’re likely to see more of them. We can accept University of Wisconsin recommendations on how to mitigate the impacts of such events on agriculture, development and infrastructure. Perhaps we can agree that Mother Nature is quite tough, and we’re going to need to work with her to do better by our communities in the future.
Kriss Marion is a farmer, small business owner and Lafayette County Board Supervisor from Blanchardville, and the founder of the Pecatonica Pride Watershed Association. Kriss is a Democratic candidate for State Senate District 17.
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