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Letter to the Editor: Decision making on Menards

Posted: Sun, Nov 5, 2017 2:36 PM

(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Scott Carlson of Decorah):

"There have been several letters/comments on regarding a proposal for Menard's to locate a store on an existing floodplain, and the common theme is that these changes will increase flooding to the upstream Decorah area and/or the downstream area. They also call on the board of adjustment and city council to predetermine the outcome of any potential development application prior to having actual hydrology data on how such a change might alter the flooding landscape.

The concern of flooding is very real, as our area has experienced so much flood-related pain and destruction in the past few years, Despite our experience, I would advocate for holding off final judgment until the facts are in. Clearly no permit should be granted to any development that would create a new or increased hazard to surrounding areas. However, I don't know that this is always the case when a floodplain gets developed. Should development create a "bottleneck" for the movement of flowing water, then there will indeed be upstream flooding. Given that the Menard's site would affect one side of the river flow, I don't see how it could cause upstream flooding. Instead, I expect it might push the water more laterally to the west, potentially flooding those areas. Whether this translates to flooding to developed regions such as Freeport is dependent on whether upstream development affects the total overflow capacity between the newly developed space in the Freeport area. So only a thorough hydrology study can determine how (and whether) this development will affect the movement of excess water. Such a report must be expected from the DNR and used by the board to determine what action should be taken.  (My apologies if such a study has been done previously to examine development of this area related to flooding).

So until we have the facts, I believe it is premature to assume that the process should be shut down, and unfair to expect city council candidates to have already assumed a position."