Spring 2020 Community of Practice Meeting

April 7, 2020
By Adam Bechle, Coastal Engineering Outreach Specialist, Wisconsin Sea Grant

A webinar meeting for the Southeastern Wisconsin Coastal Resilience Community of Practice was held virtually on March 19th, 2020. This webinar replaced a face-to-face meeting that was scheduled to be held that day in Mequon but were canceled due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) concerns. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an update on Lake Michigan water levels, learn about potential assistance and funding sources for disaster response and mitigation, and have a group discussion about communities’ experiences with these types of programs.

The webinar was attended by 52 participants from many of the municipalities and counties in southeastern Wisconsin, SEWRPC, state agencies like DNR, DOT, and DOA, and other interested groups like the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

A recording of the meeting is available below, along with a brief summary of the meeting with direct links to the recording in each section. For those looking for a water level informational meeting more geared towards the private homeowner or general public, please see this post for a recording and summary of a recent webinar intended for that audience: https://sewicoastalresilience.org/great-lakes-water-levels-informational-webinar-march-18th-2020/

Meeting Recording
Link at: https://youtu.be/DZHQlDKCU4g


Meeting Summary

Great Lakes Water Levels
Dee Apps – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -Detroit District
Shortcut to Recording – https://youtu.be/DZHQlDKCU4g?t=717
Website: https://www.lre.usace.army.mil/About/Great-Lakes-High-Water/

Dee Apps of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) – Detroit District led the meeting off with a description of Great Lakes hydrology and the record precipitation that has driven water level to new records in the past year. Lake Michigan is over a foot higher now in March 2020 than it was a year ago. Dee also discussed the forecast of water level conditions over the next six-months which indicate that Lake Michigan is likely to remain at or near record water levels throughout the extent of the forecast. As Lake Michigan continues is seasonal rise through the summer, the forecast suggests an 8 inch rise is likely from now (March 2020) through July, though the actual rise may be more or less depending on the weather conditions we experience. Even under hypothetical conditions favorable for a big water level decline, water levels will remain above average for at least the next year.

USACE Natural Hazard Response
Krystle Walker – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Detroit District Emergency Management
Shortcut to Recording – https://youtu.be/DZHQlDKCU4g?t=2681

Krystle Walker of the United States Army Corps of Engineers – Detroit District discussed the types of Emergency Assistance available to Great Lakes communities dealing with water level issues. The Detroit, Chicago, and Buffalo Districts of USACE have been providing assistance to Great Lakes communities under Public Law 84-99, with a primary focus on flooding, as erosion cannot be addressed under PL 84-99 authorities. Krystle covered the ways USACE can partner with state, county, and city emergency management agencies to implement assistance in three forms: technical assistance (knowledge and data), direct assistance (flood fight supplies), and advanced assistance (construction or studies). She also covered some of the other USACE programs that may be applicable to assist with erosion. One of the main takeaways from Krystle’s presentation was that coordination with local city and county emergency management programs is a key first step to starting the conversation about potential USACE assistance.

Hazard Mitigation Funding
Katie Sommers – Wisconsin Emergency Management, Mitigation Section Chief
Shortcut to Recording – https://youtu.be/DZHQlDKCU4g?t=4942
Website: https://dma.wi.gov/DMA/wem/mitigation/hazard-mitigation

Katie Sommers of the Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) Mitigation Section talked about hazard mitigation and the FEMA programs that they administer to support mitigation in Wisconsin communities. The three programs WEM administers are the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), Pre-Distaster Mitigation (PDM), Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA). Katie covered the different focus, requirements, cost-share, and availability of each of these programs. Some general guidelines that apply to each program is that a community (not homeowner or business) must be the applicant, projects must pass a cost-benefit analysis, and these programs require advanced planning because have long, year-plus timelines from application to approval. Katie provided some types coastal projects that could be funded by these programs as well as some examples of completed projects through these programs.

Shortcut to Recording – https://youtu.be/DZHQlDKCU4g?t=6820

Following the presentations was a lengthy discussion about mitigation and disaster funding. Some topics of conversation included:

  • How might the disaster declaration for the January 10-12th coastal storms (DR-4477) affect mitigation funding? (link to recording)
    • One relevant point is that mitigation funding could be used to compliment the disaster declaration to help protect property that was not damaged by the storm but are still at risk.
  • Sharing experience with applying for FEMA mitigation assistance (link to recording)
  • What data and information is useful to collect now in advance of applying for mitigation funding or potential future disasters? (link to recording)
    • Some things that were identified were insurance records for damaged or at risk property, inventories of coastal assets and properties with their estimated values, and records of recent and historic erosion rates from field measurements and aerial photos.
  • Addressing storm water management to preserve bluff stability (link to recording)