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‘It’s going to be a long summer’: Flooding concerns rise on Pigeon Lake

DRUMMOND, WI — Flooding in a small northwest Wisconsin town is only getting worse.

After Tuesday’s heavy rain, Bayfield County officials say Pigeon Lake has risen five more inches.

“It’s going to be a long summer,” Michael B. Gustafson said.

As Patrol Supervisor of the Bayfield County Highway Department, Gustafson and his crew are in charge of ensuring road conditions are driveable.

“This lake is rising every day,” Gustafson said. “At this point, it’s getting a little out of hand on our side trying to keep this road open.”

With no inlet or outlet on Pigeon Lake, Gustafson says the water has risen to a point where County Highway N is completely underwater.

“10 years ago, you could’ve used this as a hay field,” Gustafson said.

He says there are back roads, but even those are suffering. The closure has turned what used to be a five-minute trip into an hour long drive.

“Basically it’s been either raining or snowing since last father’s day,” Gustafson said.

Just last fall, crews raised County Highway N on the east side of the lake. Now, they’re doing the same to the west.

“There’s very limited things I can do at one time, so we just keep plugging along day after day,” Gustafson said. “Just do what we can do.”

A short-term solution, with no real answers for the long-term.

“We’ve had hydrologist look at this, we’ve had the DNR and the Forest Service and the state people come and try to find an answer,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson says he feels for those who live on Pigeon Lake, like long-time resident John Olstad.

“There’s no way to get to Drummond,” Olstad said. “You got to go around the area. It’s an inconvenience for everyone here.”

Gustafson say his crews will continue to work until a long-term solution is found.

“All we can do is just deal with it,” Gustafson said. “I mean, I feel for them. I really do, but I can’t dwell on that. I got to fix the road.”

Crews expect to open County Highway N back up to traffic in two-to-three weeks.

Wisconsin State Senator Janet Bewley says Highway N is a top priority in Bayfield county.

Senator Bewley doesn’t have an exact estimate on the cost of repairs, but she’s afraid it could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It’s a piece of change that our county’s can’t swallow that easily,” Senator Bewley said. “This is a big big problem, and if anything its a moment for us to learn we have to have enough revenue coming in in state road aide so we can identify where we need to make improvements.”

Senator Bewley says she plans to fight to make that happen at the state capitol.

Gamiel Hall

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