Trempealeau homeowner influenced getting recent floodplain bill signed into law

The bill allows people living in floodplains to raise and renovate their homes without cost constraints

TREMPEALEAU, Wis. (WKBT) – The latest long-range forecasts say there is a strong likelihood of flooding along area waterways this Spring.

But a new bill just signed into law in Wisconsin last week could help homeowners in the floodplain get some relief.

Trempealeau native Deb Ondell, who lives in a floodplain, helped get the legislation passed.

Wisconsin Act 175, regulating non-conforming buildings in the floodplain allows homeowners to elevate and maintain their properties in floodplains, if the structure is two feet above the base flood elevation.

“Now, finally, we will be able to abandon the lower level, take that square footage, and build it up on top of the existing second floor,” Ondell said.

Ondell has been living along the Mississippi River for the past seven years.

With her house getting flooded several times, she eventually had enough.

“It is very frustrating every spring to have to move things up and out of harms way.”

She has endured flooding inside her cottage multiple times.

“In the past seven years, we have had water inside our home three times,” Ondell said.

Despite repeatedly trying to get her cottage elevated to avoid the dangerous water, Ondell didn’t have the money.

“We just did not have enough equity in the cottage in order to be able to do what we wanted to do,” Ondell said.

The flooding from last year hit Ondell the hardest.

“Last spring was a horrible spring,” Ondell said. “We ended up essentially having to gut our lower level because we had 22 inches of water in the lower level.”

So Ondell approached Mt. Trempealeau Corporation, a non-profit, to pitch her idea of a bill that would help her and other people living in a floodplain.

“The corporation hired a lobbyist who worked very diligently in getting our bill to Governor Evers’ desk.”

The governor knew flooding locally and statewide was too great of a problem to be ignored, therefore signing Ondell’s idea into law.

“I realized that as I toured the state last year on flooding, whether it was in the city of Fond du Lac or here in Trempealeau County and elsewhere, frankly, is that we need to look at it comprehensively,” Evers said. “And we’ve been unable to do that. These bills I think will help.”

Now Ondell can relax and enjoy the fresh air safely above the river waters.

“I mean, this is just so calming, so serene,” Ondell said. “This is God’s country.”

Ondell tells me that she hopes to start adding on to her cottage in May.

The new floodplain bill passed unanimously in both the state Senate and Assembly.