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Waterlogged: Lake Hallie couple hopes the state will buy their property

Dave and Linda Evans of Lake Hallie are asking state officials to either buy their property and pay for their moving expenses or re-engineer and rebuild a nearby retention pond.

The couple say alterations to the pond on adjoining property — made about 3½ years ago by the village and state — resulted in the flooding of their basement, damage to their property and loss of thousands of dollars.

A couple of weeks ago, the retirees who live at 1447 116th St., sent a letter to state and federal lawmakers, including Gov. Tony Evers, hoping for a resolution.

“We don’t have any other options,” said Dave, who has a bad heart. “Who else is going to want to buy this place.”

According to the couple:

More than three years ago, Lake Hallie and the state enlarged the storm retention pond at the corner of Melby and 118th streets to accommodate increased drainage from new curb and gutter and a new business on 118th.

“The retention pond they enlarged on the adjoining property was improperly built and is too shallow,” the couple wrote in their letter. “The floor of the pond is about five feet above our basement.

“The normal water table should have been at least 30 feet; at this time, it was only about four.”

The couple first realized there was a problem when Linda, who had a sewing room in their finished basement, got up to get something from the east end of the basement.

“I stepped on the carpet and went sploosh,” she said.

The Evans were pumping 150 to 200 gallons of water a day out of their basement with a portable electric pump and two Shop-vacs.

The couple hired a contractor to install a french drain, a trench filled with a perforated pipe and gravel or rock that allows water to drain naturally, from the east end of the house and partway down their driveway. The cost was about $16,000.

“The drain seemed to work, but the following spring, we had water coming in on the north and south sides of the basement, and we were back to pumping water … ,” they said.

The couple hired another contractor to install an interior drain system and a second sump pump, totaling another $12,000. Some additional work on this is needed.

“When they had the trenches dug, you could see the water flowing, and there was an oil slick on the water,” the couple wrote.

They hired an attorney for $3,500 to file a claim with the state and a hydrogeologist for another $2,000 to confirm the water was coming from the pond.

“With the report from the hydrogeologist, the state finally admitted that the retention pond was built wrong, but we’re not going to do anything about it … ,’” the couple wrote.

The couple has a sump pump that runs nearly continuously, and there is so much water under the concrete floor that it is seeping up through the concrete.

Dave and Linda don’t spend as much time in their once-finished basement as used to — her sewing and him working on model cars. It’s considerably cooler down there now and smells musty. Most of the carpet is gone, some of the wall coverings have been removed, and their possessions are stored in plastic totes.

Outside, the water has damaged the landscaping, the couple’s apple trees are producing little to no fruit, and Dave and Linda are reluctant to eat any fruit it does produce.

The couple have homeowners’ insurance, but initially, they didn’t have flood insurance (they do now), so they had to cover the cost of damage.

“It’s just disgusting,” Linda said. “When I bought the place (in 2002), I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m done.’” (She turns 80 this year.)

Potential future issues keep Dave up at night.

“I firmly believe the floor and walls will start settling and compromise the whole structure,” said Dave, who once worked as a surveyor. “With the saturation point where it is, it could very well be too late already. We have exhausted our reverse mortgage and stand to lose everything if something is not done.”

The Evans have found one sympathetic official — state Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie.

After visiting the area, Bernier believes the pond “is designed to flow right into the neighborhood.”

“Nobody will take responsibility for this, and I don’t know what to do,” the lawmaker said.

Gary Spilde, president of the Lake Hallie Village Board, said he didn’t think the pond had been altered that much, and officials from Ayres Associates, an architectural and engineering firm, came out after 118th Street was put in, looked at the area and made some recommendations.

“We haven’t heard anything since then, so this is news to me,” Spilde said of the Evans’ issues.

“They haven’t approached the board about it,” he said. “If they are still having problems, they can come to a board meeting and tell us.”

Because of the Fourth of July holiday, state Department of Transportation officials familiar with the area couldn’t be reached for comment.

“If the state were to buy us out at fair market value and reimburse us for legal fees and the expenses we have incurred ... and pay our moving expenses, we would be more than happy,” the couple said.

Southern California jolted by biggest quake in 20 years

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The largest Southern California quake in nearly 20 years jolted an area stretching from Sacramento to Las Vegas to Mexico as it cracked buildings, set fires, wrecked roads but only caused minor injuries.

Seismologists warned that large aftershocks were expected to continue for days, if not weeks.

The 7.1-magnitude quake struck at 8:19 p.m. Friday and was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, the same area of the Mojave Desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit just a day earlier.

Ridgecrest, already trying to recover from Thursday’s earthquake, took the brunt of the damage. Several thousand people there were without power, and there were reports of cracked buildings.

Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said two building fires — one involving a mobile home — were quickly doused. There were several reports of natural gas leaks, but the lines were shut off. Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services, said daybreak Saturday could show even more serious damage.

Local fire and police officials said they were initially swamped by calls for medical and ambulance service. But the police chief said there was “nothing but minor injuries such as cuts and bruises, by the grace of God.”

For the second time in as many days, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital wheeled patients out of the building, some still hooked to IVs, CNN reported.

Nearby, the tiny town of Trona, with about 2,000 residents, was reported to have at least one collapsed building. Roads were buckled or blocked, and police put out a call for bottled water for residents.

State Route 178 in Kern County was closed by a rockslide and had severe cracking.

In downtown Los Angeles, 150 miles away, offices in skyscrapers rolled and rocked for at least 30 seconds.

Andrew Lippman, who lives in suburban South Pasadena, was sitting outside and reading a newspaper when Friday’s quake hit. He calculated it lasted 45 seconds.

“I could see power lines swaying,” he said.

Disneyland in Orange County and Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita closed their rides. At the New York-New York hotel in Las Vegas, the Big Apple Coaster swayed as the earth moved.

An NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas was stopped after the quake. Speakers over the court at the Thomas & Mack Center continued swaying more than 10 minutes after it was over.

In Los Angeles, the earthquake rattled Dodger Stadium in the fourth inning of the team’s game against the San Diego Padres. But the game went on, and the Padres won, 3-2.

“Not many people can say they threw a strike during an earthquake,” Eric Lauer, who was on the mound at the time, said later. “My ball, my pitch, started an earthquake.”

“Everyone was jumping over us to leave,” said Daniel Earle, 52, of Playa del Rey, who was sitting with his wife in the stadium’s reserve level. “My wife was holding us, like squeezing. I’m surprised my arm is still here.”

Friday’s quake was followed by a series of large and small aftershocks, including a few above magnitude 5.0.

Southern California can expect more significant shaking in the near future, said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the U.S. Geological Survey.

There is about a 1-in-10 chance that another 7.0 quake could hit within the next week, and chance of a 5.0-magnitude quake “is approaching certainty,” she added.

She said the new quake probably ruptured along about 25 miles (40 kilometers) of fault line and was part of a continuing sequence. The seismic activity is unlikely to affect fault lines outside of the area, Jones said, noting that the gigantic San Andreas Fault is far away.

Gov. Gavin Newsom activated the state Office of Emergency Services operations center “to its highest level” and announced he had requested that President Donald Trump issue an emergency declaration so the state could receive federal aid.

Earlier Friday, Los Angeles had revealed plans to lower slightly the threshold for public alerts from its earthquake early warning app. But officials said the change was in the works before the Thursday quake, which gave scientists at the California Institute of Technology’s seismology lab 48 seconds of warning but did not trigger a public notification.

“Our goal is to alert people who might experience potentially damaging shaking, not just feel the shaking,” said Robert de Groot, a spokesman for the USGS’s ShakeAlert system, which is being developed for California, Oregon and Washington.

The West Coast ShakeAlert system has provided non-public earthquake notifications on a daily basis to many test users, including emergency agencies, industries, transportation systems and schools.

Construction of a network of seismic-monitoring stations for the West Coast is just over half complete, with most coverage in Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area and the Seattle-Tacoma area. Eventually, the system will send out alerts over the same system used for Amber Alerts to defined areas that are expected to be affected by a quake, de Groot said.

California is partnering with the federal government to build the statewide earthquake warning system, with the goal of turning it on by June 2021. The state has already spent at least $25 million building it, including installing hundreds of seismic stations throughout the state.

This year, Newsom said the state needed $16.3 million to finish the project, which included money for stations to monitor seismic activity, plus nearly $7 million for “outreach and education.” The state Legislature approved the funding last month, and Newsom signed it into law.

Off Beat: Markings remind drivers to share road with bikes

I was driving along a newly paved stretch of Riverview Drive recently when I noticed a bright white symbol painted on the road.

The image of a bicycle with two arrows above it was not unfamiliar, but it nonetheless jolted me with this embarrassing admission: I had no idea what it meant.

I figured the increasingly common symbols had something to do with bicycle safety (which is true, by the way), but I really didn’t know what they were called or what they were trying to tell me.

In my defense — not much of one, really — I’ve heard others ask about the symbols as well.

So like any good journalist, I decided to investigate.

OK, so it’s not exactly Watergate, but I figured, as long as I’m not alone in my ignorance, it would be a public service.

A few clicks on the internet gave me the answer. The symbols are called sharrows, or shared lane pavement markings, and they are intended to indicate a travel lane in which bicycles and automobiles must share the space because there may not be enough room for them to fit safely side-by-side.

The markings, which have become increasingly popular in recent years across the country, serve multiple purposes, said Leah Ness, Eau Claire’s deputy city engineer.

“Sharrows are typically located in a driving lane and they are a visual reminder to motorists that they have to share the lane with bicyclists,” Ness said.

Beyond that, the symbols are often deployed in Eau Claire to indicate primary bicycle routes through the city and typically are placed 2 to 3 feet from the parking lane to give bicyclists a good idea of where they should ride to stay safely out of the way of door swings from parked vehicles, she said.

City Councilman Jeremy Gragert, an avid bicyclist and former northwest ambassador for the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation, added that he hopes motorists also interpret the markings as indicating they should slow down when sharing a lane with a bicyclist and wait for a safe place to pass.

“A key thing for drivers to remember is, whether there are sharrows or not, a bicyclist always has the right to take the lane because they are a vehicle too,” Gragert said, adding that he believes motorists have gotten better about being aware of bikers as more people have taken to pedaling instead of putting the pedal to the metal.

Other bicycle-related safety symbols used on Eau Claire streets include those marking separate bike lanes and bike boxes.

Bike lane symbols, which are probably the most widely understood, depict a person on a bicycle or just a bicycle in a narrow lane intended strictly for bicycles. The lanes give bicyclists the comfort of not having to share a lane with cars and trucks.

Bike boxes, now used only at the intersection of Keith Street and Brackett Avenue in Eau Claire, are a section of green painted pavement with a bicycle symbol. They designate an area where bikes can get out in front of other vehicles when stopped at a traffic light.

“It allows bicyclists to be more visible and do their turning movement ahead of the cars,” said Gragert, who hopes the city adds more bike boxes at busy intersections used frequently by bikers.

Sharrows, however, are a bit less intuitive, especially when they are located in the middle of a street that doesn’t happen to have any cars parked on it.

Though sharrows have appeared on Eau Claire streets for about a decade, Gragert recognizes that many people, like me, are still confused by the symbols. He has a tongue-in-cheek answer ready when people ask him what they mean.

“I say, ‘They mean you should be biking,’ “ Gragert said with a chuckle. “It’s kind of a joke, but kind of not.”

Indeed, a secondary goal of sharrows is to promote other modes of transportation beyond driving by generating more awareness of primary bicycle routes around town.

“The idea is that maybe people will see them and think, ‘I probably could have biked here instead of using my vehicle,’ “ Ness said.

Considering the benefits — increasing fitness and decreasing gasoline costs and greenhouse gas emissions — that’s a message worth repeating on pavement all over town.