Village of Viola receives $3 million to repair flood damage

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VIOLA, Wis. (WKBT) – The Village of Viola will spend $3 million to address floodplain issues with an investment from USDA. Over the past 14 years, Viola has been flooded seven times.

The village president, Daren Matthes, has lived in Viola all his life.

“Before it was always ‘if we have a flood’, now it’s ‘when we have a flood’,” Matthes said.

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

“It had a major impact on people, not just financially, I think stress and emotional levels and everything that was involved in the flooding,” Matthes said.

Losses brought this small community together.

“Caring for their neighbours, friends and relatives. You know, it’s just amazing how a small town comes together in times like this,” Matthes said.

This community cares, but this support does not cover the costs of repairing flood damage.

“If you’re working with an $83,000 tax levy for the village, you couldn’t find enough money to even start a project like this,” Matthes said.

With several buildings damaged and no chance of the floods stopping, Viola was in deep trouble. Village chiefs have turned to the federal government for help.

“It took a lot of work and a lot of concern from citizens who want to make sure the viola is sustainable and will continue,” Matthes said.

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

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

Now they are digging a new road outside the floodplain. A glimmer of hope for a rural village devastated by floods.

Lassa calls this expense a worthwhile investment.

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

USDA grants and loans, along with local funding and $1 million from a community development block grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be used to move buildings out of the floodplain, repair sewage systems and installing new roads and wells in resettlement areas.

The work will take place over the next two years.

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