Viola to use $3 million in fed money to help move homes, businesses out of floodplain

VIOLA, Wis. (WKBT) — The Village of Viola will spend $3 million to address flooding issues, including moving homes and businesses out of the floodplain, with a USDA investment.

Viola has flooded seven times during the past 14 years.

“It always used to be, ‘If we have a flood,’” said Village President Daren Matthes, who has lived in Viola his entire life. “now the talk is, ‘When we have a flood.'”

When the Kickapoo River flooded in 2018, the village’s main road was under water.

“It’s had a major impact on people — not only financially — I think stress and emotional levels and everything that took part in happening with the flood,” Matthes said.

The losses brought this small community together.

“Taking care of their neighbors, friends and relatives. You know, it’s just amazing how a small town comes together in those times like that,” Matthes said.

This community cares, but that support doesn’t cover the costs of repairing flood damage.

“When you’re working with a tax levy of $83,000 for the village otherwise, you couldn’t come up with enough money to even start into a project like this,” Matthes said.

With multiple buildings damaged and no chance flooding would let up, Viola was in a pinch. Village leaders turned to the federal government for help.

“It’s taken a lot of work and a lot of concern by the citizens wanting to make sure viola is sustainable and is going to continue on,” Matthes said.

Rural USDA is chipping in to help move homes and businesses out of the floodplain.

“You have the federal government through USDA rural development and these local communities partner, you can do so much more. And that just benefits everyone,” said Julie Lassa, the USDA’s rural development director in Wisconsin.

Now they’re breaking ground on a new road outside of the floodplain. A glimmer of hope for a rural village devastated by flooding.

Lassa calls this spending a worthy investment.

“That really helps lift the economy of the state and the nation as a whole,” Lassa said.

The grants and loans from the USDA, as well as local funding and  $1 million from a Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant, will be used to move buildings out of the floodplain, repair sewer systems and install new roads and wells in resettlement zones.

Work will take place over the next two years.

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