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Quick Update - 2021 Flood

Just a quick update on floods and a chance to photo dump for those that are curious about the aftermath. For more about the most recent round of flooding, see yesterday's Thoughts on Floods (2021 edition).


Mostly, I went to do a bit of storm chasing water quality testing. In mid-summer, a thermometer is probably the most important tool. However when flows come up, sediment and manure are more likely to be full of nutrients which can deplete streams of dissolved oxygen. Sediments deposited along the West Fork had a pretty significant cow shit smell. Nitrogen and phosphorous were up a bit but generally not into or at least far into the danger range. However the N&P might be down from their peaks when the floods were raging.

West Fork Kickapoo - looking from the club downstream.

Temperatures were up everywhere. The West Fork was running at 69*F which was no surprise but upper Timber Coulee - at the bridge on Highway P at Snowflake Golf Course was running at 68*F. I have to assume that the warm surface waters are overwhelming the springs right now. Streams should cool off soon as groundwater will be pumping hard after this event.


First the good


Rainfall was fairly localized and much of the region was spared from much damage. 2018 is sort of the gold standard by which we now measure floods. This - in general was not 2018 but some places got pretty it pretty bad (see below).


The West Fork got hit and the bridge at Bloomingdale is compromised again. However, the valley generally fared a lot better than it did in 2018. No wall of water from a dam break is probably a huge part of that. The West Fork Sports Club grounds have some work that needs to be done but all things considered, they fared pretty well. Best of all, the clubhouse saw very little water or mud. Om 2018, I was running a chainsaw inside the clubhouse to remove the old bar. The work they did really helped a lot.

West Fork Sports Club
West Fork Sports Club - it held up pretty well. Absolutely nothing like 2018.
Just a small bit of water and mud inside the clubhouse. Can't begin to describe how much better this is than 2018...

From what I could see, habitat work on Bohemian Valley that the WDNR crew out of La Crosse has been doing has held up wonderfully. Driving along G, it was pretty evident where the stream had been narrowed and where the vestiges of the 2018 flood remain.

Bohemian Valley (Coon) Creek
Bohemian - downstream of the "high bridge" (HWY H) - new work held up.
Bohemain Valley (Coon) Creek
Further downstream on Bohemian - the bridge that leads to the farm across the stream blew out - again.

All things considered, a whole lot of bullets were dodged. People have some stuff to clean up, fences to put back up, and the highway crews will be even busier for a while but major catastrophes were mostly averted.


The Bad


Rainfall was quite variable - the worst hit seemed to be upper Timber Coulee and Spring Coulee which start fairly close to on another on the ridges where highways 14 and 27 run. Spring Coulee Road is closed as the bridge at Ofte's (first bridge upstream on Spring Coulee Road) is closed to clear debris. I didn't head up that way to stay out of the way but the images below are from Spring Coulee Road and Highway P. I assume that sign had made it through 2018 but this flood was carrying a lot of debris, it seems.

Spring Coulee Road closure (8/9)
Spring Coulee Road is closed to clear debris. It seems Spring Coulee may have been the hardest hit.
Spring Coulee at HWY P
Spring Coulee at Highway P - a lot of debris moved downstream and started to take out the sign.

The Ugly


There really was not that much ugly. I mean floods are always rather ugly but in the larger picture, this one was not as bad as I had expected based on videos and earlier images.

Junction pool has changed
The junction of Rullands (right) and Timber Coulee (far) - hard to say what is new and what is 2018.

The Upshot


These things always take some time to sort themselves out. The streams are still quite high and muddy so it is hard to see exactly what is under there. A lot of drying out needs to occur and once that happens, there is plenty of clean up to do, again. Picnic tables to chase down from wherever the floated off to and driveways to repair, again. Grazers are out repairing fences - again. The county highway crews were out and busy fixing some of the same bridges, again.

A trapped Brown Trout.
West Fork Sports Club - a lone dead Brown Trout. I'm always surprised they're so rare post-flood.

The fish will be just fine, they (almost) always are. It will test people's resiliency again. How much longer people are willing to have their resiliency tested is a question that might be answered soon. We build bridges to save money, not pass floods - certainly not the floods we have experienced recently. We farm to get as much from the land as we can. Are we asking - or taking - too much? We need to invest in some infrastructure - bridges, stream buffers, grassed waterways - to slow down water delivery to streams and better pass floods when water does get to streams.


We need to make some decisions on how we are going to deal with heavy rains and floods. The status quo is not working - and it is getting really expensive.


Not out of the Woods


Tomorrow - Tuesday the 10th - is looking potentially bad and the ground is pretty saturated. One to keep an eye on...

NWS Forescast for 8/10
Tuesday's forescast from the National Weather Service in La Crosse.

More quick thoughts. Let's hope tomorrow is just heat and humidity.


For fishing reports, the Driftless Angler is on top of things. There is good, clean water to be found - just not where I was today.


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