Engineers Take on Flood

Village flood presentation given by UW System alumni


The Exponent/Morgan Fuerstenberg

Gary Blazek and Logan Hansen from Vierbicher presented, “Recovery from a Historical Flooding: Experience from the Village of Viola,” on March 7 at 5 p.m. in Sesquicentennial Hall.

Blazek is a UW-Madison graduate who often comes to the Career Fairs at the UW-Platteville. “UW-Platteville offers a more practical program which produces more equipped engineers,” Blazek said about the engineering program at UW-Platteville.

Hansen is a UW-Platteville graduate and works mainly in Dodgeville with design projects. Blazek and Hansen worked together to help plan a solution for the flooding in Viola.

Viola is a small village in western Wisconsin and is in Vernon and Richland County. The Kickapoo River bisects the village, and there have been four to five floods since 2008.

GoMacro provides jobs in Viola even though the community is made up of 700 people. Their facility is on one side of Viola, and due to the flood, it took emergency vehicles 20 minutes to get there, which is not practical in times of emergency.

August 2018 was the most recent flood in Viola. It took down the village as daily life for the community came to a halt. Vierbicher helped Viola apply for a Rural Development Search Grant for $30,000, which they received.

The grant money went to three sites: site A repairs commercial land and buildings; site B repairs commercial and residential land; site C repaired residential land and constructed new buildings.

The next phase was a $200,000 budget. The COVID-19 pandemic did not help with the pricing as the original budget was $130,000.

The final phase was a $2.7 million plan to build houses on top of the hills, completely out of the river’s flooding zone. “Without funding and community input, it won’t work out, just like a house of cards,” Blazek said about community support.

Vierpecher is continually working with Viola in their budget plans. Specifically, they are helping Viola apply for low interest loans in wastewater and water. Blazek considers it essential for Viola to have Tax Increment Financing.

TIF is a 22 to 27 year plan where the money goes to restoring community buildings and improving the economy. It will generate more money in the long term for the community.

In 2019, the project was implemented. Flood proofing manholes were installed, which required designers and engineers to communicate more. There were many different agencies involved with Viola, and they all had different start approval dates.

By fall, everyone will be able to move out of the flood zone. Some people may want to stay, but if their house is condemned, they have no other choice but to move.

Even though Viola is a small village, they already have fiber optic, and in the future, they hope to have solar power. This means they can better support themselves. “They are set-up to prosper,” Blazek said.

This presentation is a part of the Engineering Seminar Series in which presentations on “real- world engineering projects” are made available to the public to learn about.