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Flood Concerns at Center of Wisconsin Climate Report

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Reducing the threat of historic floods in Wisconsin is being touted as a key benefit of this month's report from the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change.

More than 50 recommendations are now on the table to help the Badger State reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions and other factors contributing to climate change.

Rising waters are a concern. The report noted the state's annual precipitation has increased 15% since the 1950s.

Yaron Miller, officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts' Flood-Prepared Communities initiative, said plans like this give policymakers a blueprint needed to protect communities across the state.

"We know that floodwaters don't respect city or county lines, and so, with a comprehensive planning effort, we can really take a holistic look at how the actions in one area can affect flooding downstream," Miller explained.

He contended statewide coordination can make many communities climate resilient.

Miller noted Wisconsin has had 11 major flood disasters in the past decade.

Task force members acknowledge they didn't always agree, and any plan requiring legislative approval might encounter partisan gridlock. The state's projected deficit is also seen as a possible roadblock.

Despite those factors, the panel said its report comes with a bipartisan mindset and isn't locked down to a specific price tag.

Dylan Jennings, public information officer for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and a Bad River tribal member, served on the task force.

He said long-term mitigation investments can help the state avoid costly responses, pointing to a catastrophic flood in his community in 2016.

"We're talking millions of dollars in aid for rebuilding infrastructure; economic impacts to the area stemming from the prevention of tourism in our area," Jennings stated.

Jennings reported it also affected the natural resources tribal members depend on. His community's concerns tie into one of the report's themes, which is climate justice.

It's unclear how much attention the recommendations will receive next year, as policymakers will still be dealing with the pandemic.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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