State News: Flood Maps, Flu Season, Democratic Convention

Coastal Flood Study to Pinpoint High-Risk Areas

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is conducting a Great Lakes Coastal Flood study that will be used to update flood maps for coastal communities and define areas most at risk of flooding. It’s is part of a national initiative to update flood maps and show areas prone to flood damage.

The agency is looking to make coastal communities more resilient to extreme flooding events similar to what northern Wisconsin witnessed last week, said Melissa Janssen, risk analysis branch chief for FEMA Region 5 based in Chicago.  

“By providing critical flood hazard information and tools to homeowners and communities so they can make better and informed decisions about how to prepare for and take action to reduce damages caused by floods,” said Janssen.

High lake levels and winds can lead to significant flooding and damage along Great Lakes coastlines. Janssen said updated flood maps that result from the study will incorporate velocity zones. The zones indicate the highest risk areas for a 100-year flood in which severe storms are capable of producing strong waves with the potential to cause structural damage. Janssen said they expect to have all flood maps updated by 2024.


Favre Backs Illinois Bill Banning Youth Tackle Football

Brett Favre estimates that during his 20-year NFL career he suffered thousands of concussions. Those experiences, plus the growing science behind the danger of repeated head trauma like that experienced in tackle football, pushed Favre to give his support to a bill in the Illinois Legislature that would ban tackle football for kids below the age of 12.

No such bill has been proposed in Wisconsin, but Wade Labecki, deputy director of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, said while his organization would be “willing to collaborate” with lawmakers on such a proposal, Labecki isn’t sure “legislation is the way to go at this point in time.” The WIAA is involved primarily with high school sports, but Labecki said some Wisconsin middle schools do offer tackle football programs. The WIAA has a concussion policy on its website that states, “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out,” encouraging coaches to err on the side of caution when it comes to possible brain injuries.


Rains Cause Ashland Sewage Overflow

Last weekend’s storms caused around 15 million gallons of sewage to overflow from Ashland’s wastewater treatment plant into Lake Superior. The city also experienced two other overflows from its sanitary sewer system as a result of the storms.

Ashland Mayor Deb Lewis said the city’s aging sewer system was overwhelmed by heavy rains. The system’s current design is capable of handling rainfall estimates from the 1960s. Lewis indicated the cost to upgrade the system would far surpass what the city is capable of funding with its roughly $12 million annual budget.

City beaches have been closed and people are advised to avoid swimming or wading in the water until further notice.


Two Democrats Bow Out of Race

State Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, has ended his campaign for governor, becoming the second Democrat in as many days to abandon his bid to defeat Gov. Scott Walker.

In a written statement announcing his decision, Wachs endorsed state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who led the Democratic field in the most recent Marquette University survey of Democratic voters. Just two percent of Democrats said they would support Wachs in the latest Marquette poll.

Wachs’ announcement came just a day after businessman Andy Gronik declared he would suspend his campaign.

Wachs decision to leave the race leaves state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, as the only candidate on the ballot from western Wisconsin.

Other Democrats still running for governor include former state Democratic Party Chair Matt Flynn, activist Mike McCabe, firefighter union head Mahlon Mitchell, Kenosha native Josh Pade, former Madison state Rep. Kelda Roys, and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.

All 10 Democrats trailed Walker in hypothetical matchups in the most recent Marquette poll.


Flu Season Was Significant, Strange

Health officials say the flu season never really ends; it just gets better or worse. But it did end – at least briefly – in Wisconsin. Last week there was not a single case of the flu, ending a streak of 99 straight weeks where at least one incident has been reported to the state since July 2016. It was one of the worst years for the flu in a decade.

“It was a nasty, nasty year,” said Thomas Haupt, influenza surveillance coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.


Milwaukee a Finalist to Host 2020 Democratic Convention

Milwaukee is one of three finalists in a bid to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention, besting cities like New York and San Francisco.

The announcement named Milwaukee, Houston and Miami Beach as still in the running. Denver was also a finalist but withdrew its application due to scheduling issues.

Alex Lasry is vice president of the Milwaukee Bucks and the chairman of Milwaukee’s convention bid committee. He’s been leading efforts to bring the first national convention of either major party to the state.

The next six months will be crucial in securing the bid, Lasry said.

“We’re trying to raise half a million to $1 million and we’re well on our way to that goal,” he said. “And we’re, you know, continuing to raise corporate support, not so much for raising of the funds but to show the selection committee we have a broad-based support from the Milwaukee community.”

The money the committee is raising will continue to go to lobbying efforts and will pay for promotional materials.

Great weather, affordability and diversity are key points Lasry and members of the bid committee are trying to relay in the bid process.

“Trying to win a convention of this size is about putting Milwaukee on the map the way it hasn’t been put on before,” he said.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2018, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

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