State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2009WI215B
Title: From Sandbags to Sanity: Lessons from the Midwest Floods of 2008
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 2/28/2010
Congressional District: 2
Focus Categories: Law, Institutions, and Policy, Floods, Hydrology
Keywords: policy, management, water resources
Principal Investigator: Moynihan, Donald Patrick (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Federal Funds: $ 25,174
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 25,119
Abstract: When record floods swept through the Midwest in 2008, it became clear that localities varied widely in their crisis preparation, response and recovery practices. Public officials realized that Wisconsin needs better state policies to ensure a more systematic response to future disasters, and they have turned to the University of Wisconsin System for help and information on everything from hydrology to climate change and intergovernmental collaboration.

Working in partnership with Wisconsin Emergency Management, the Wisconsin Recovery Task Force created by Governor Doyle, the Joint Legislative Council's Special Committee on Emergency Management, the Wisconsin Counties Association and the Association of State Floodplain Managers, the investigators propose to set up a workshop that matches UW System expertise with the needs of policymakers and practitioners, focusing specifically on issues identified by the blue-ribbon Recovery Task Force.

Specifically, they propose to organize and host a workshop in spring 2009 that matches the needs of policymakers with UW System research faculty at UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay with nationally recognized expertise in hydrology and stormwater management, emergency management, intergovernmental collaboration, the causes and public health risks of floods, and the economic impacts of disasters. After the workshop, a summary report that documents the policy insights discussed and developed at the workshop will be prepared and disseminated throughout Wisconsin and beyond.

By partnering with key policymakers (e.g., Wisconsin Emergency Management, the Wisconsin Recovery Task Force created by Governor Doyle, the Joint Legislative Council's Special Committee on Emergency Management, the Wisconsin Counties Association, and the Association of State Floodplain Managers), the proposed workshop will be designed to address specific policy questions.

The workshop is timed at a point in the policy process when UWS researchers can have maximum influence in providing sound science that may shape legislative and executive branch policy outcomes. In early 2009, a task force commissioned by Governor Doyle and a special legislative committee will offer policy proposals for emergency management in Wisconsin. The investigators have discussed the content and format of the seminar with these policymakers to ensure their involvement and to find out which UW experts can best inform their policy proposals.

The workshop will also educate local officials on what practices need to be upgraded to meet future disasters. For local officials who cannot attend the workshop, the material will be available live via streaming video on the Internet during the workshop and on the workshop website afterwards.

In addition, the workshop will strengthen a nascent partnership between UW scholars and state policymakers, establishing a base for substantive future collaboration in "the Wisconsin Idea" tradition. At the same time, the seminar will bring together UW students interested in crisis management policy. Connecting these students with professors and policymakers will help to facilitate internships, research projects, future education and employment opportunities.

Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF

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