Gays Mills was submerged five feet deep in water, buildings floated away at Boaz, and all six members of a family near Viroqua drowned when their farmhouse was swept downstream" ("Floods in Wisconsin," the Wisconsin Historical Society, 2009). As is illustrated by this anecdote, flooding is almost always devastating to the residents of an area -- many Wisconsin residents lost everything from the flooding that occurred. Ecologically, from a holistic perspective, flooding can have some benefits, by returning nutrients to the soil, opening up the land to new habitation by a variety of species and replenishing wetlands. Also from a long-term perspective, wetlands can receive runoff from higher areas affected by heavy rains.
Flooding also has historically worked to counteract the severity of droughts. However, one interesting component of Wisconsin's struggles is that while some areas of the state have suffered terrible floods, others have been afflicted by a lack of precipitation ("Effects of climate change in Wisconsin: Flooding in the south, drought in the north," Wisconsin Geologic History and Natural Survey, 2009). Current geographical and climate changes have been 'ill winds' that have brought few residents any 'good.'
It has been possible in some areas of the state to mitigate the effects of flooding. Coon County has been one notable exception to the intensifying patterns of flooding in the area. During the 1930s, agricultural practices were modified to mitigate flooding: the newly created Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) increased the degree of land slope to divide land tracts of farmers. Relatively flat bottomland and land sloping from 2-20% were made into cropland or pasture. Slopes from 8% to20% were put into contour strips to protect the pasture. Then, "the 20-30% land was fenced for pasture by the CCC crews, and the steeper land was used for woods. These same guidelines were used on ridges to separate land use" ("Coon," Vernon County, 2009).
Later on, in one experiment, stream flow for 67 years was simulated mimicking conditions in the 1930s; conditions in the 1970s, excluding the modified areas, and conditions in the 1970s, after the CCC intervention. "These simulations showed that the changes in agricultural practices over 40 years (1940-80) reduced the 100-year flood by 53% (from 38,900 to 18,300 cubic feet per second)…Comparisons of model simulations showed that differences between the model calibrations for the two periods were statistically significant at the 95% confidence level" (Krug 1996).
Within residential and commercial areas, other steps to mitigate damage may be required in the whole of the state. Moving residents from highly flood-prone locations, waterproofing basements, and having disaster evacuation plans are typical efforts implemented in most flood-prone regions. Dams, sandbagging, and radically altering the territory through adding ridges and sloping can clearly be effective as a preventative measure, as seen in Coon County. However, gradually it is becoming clearer that no environmental solution can be bound within the confines of one state, county, or nation. Storms may increase in their severity due to the effects of global warming, and while environmental conditions may make Wisconsin uniquely prone to flooding, higher streams and rivers and groundwater levels will continue to leave the soil unable to absorb the necessary amount of liquid to remain safe. Global warming, which increases groundwater levels as well as the intensity of storms, must be fought nationally and internationally, although local efforts can mitigate the symptom's severity and reduce the threats posed by natural environmental conditions.
"Check dams." California storm water handbook (CASH). August 14, 2009.