Fort Atkinson residents look for help with flooding

City, county officials say it's property owner's responsibility
Fort Atkinson residents look for help with flooding

Residents in Fort Atkinson are asking someone to help them stop flooding on their street.

They were hit hard Wednesday during heavy rainfall, as runoff from a nearby farm field filled up their street.

Jan Tuten and Karen Stelse are neighbors that are worried about what’s ending up in their yards and sometimes basements.

“It’s just muck and manure and junk from the field,” Stelse said. “We need something. I don’t know what’s going to happen because we can’t live like this after every rain.”

The problem has been going on for six years, and the residents said no one seems willing to make a change.

“No one will help us,” Tuten said. “It’s really frustrating.”

The DNR said it’s not their jurisdiction since the runoff goes into a street and not a state waterway.

“Unfortunately, it is going onto private property and a public street,” said Ryan Ellifson, a DNR conservation warden who has investigated complaints of runoff.

City and county officials said it’s the property owner’s responsibility to do some mitigation, but confirm that the farm is following all regulations for manure and land management.

Brian Knox, the owner of the historic Hoard’s Dairyman Farm, said he didn’t cause the problem, but that the developer who bought the land years ago created the field funnel. He said that company has since gone bankrupt, and the developer has died.

“The trouble is it wasn’t a problem of our making and obviously we’ve been around for 150 years,” Knox said. “We try to be good citizens, but sometimes these things get to be problematic and this is one of those.”

Knox said he is willing to work on a solution to the issue.

“It’s going to have to be the city, us, county and all of that to come to a conclusion,” Knox said. “And the rest of the complication is that [this field] is a national historic site so you don’t just dig a big hole there.”

Knox said the field is one of the first in Wisconsin where alfalfa was grown.

The neighbors say now, though, the field is only a growing headache.

“I know you can’t control Mother Nature when it comes down fast and furious, but something needs to be done,” Stelse said.

Jefferson County was trying to get the federal government to help build a mitigation project there, but that fell through.

The city engineer said they would consider buying part of the land to build a retention pond. Knox said he’d be interested to see that offer.