ROBERTS, Wis. — Twin Lakes could spill into a Kinnickinnic River tributary in the coming years if the water levels continue to rise, a group of concerned citizens has warned.

The latest development in a long-term flooding problem follows an engineering study presented to local governments last year that concluded the village of Roberts’ newly upgraded wastewater treatment plant could be inundated with water in the next five years.

Members of the nonprofit community association Friends of the Twin Lakes said conversations with the lead engineer of the study suggest natural overflow from the pair of seepage lakes could reach a source for the Kinni, a prized cold water trout stream.

Just don’t expect that to happen in the near future, according to Brad Woznak, water resources engineer for planning firm SEH.

The overflow analysis was outside the scope of the $12,000 study conducted by SEH for the town of Warren, Woznak told the Star-Observer, but contour maps seemed to indicate spillage would likely be to the southwest toward the Kinni if water on Twin Lakes rises several more feet.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“It’s a super complex problem,” he said of Twin Lakes flooding. The risk to the Roberts treatment plant is based on water continuing to rise at the same rate — about 6 inches a year — but there’s no guarantee that will happen, he added.

The SEH study identified a range of potential mitigation measures, including using water from Twin Lakes to irrigate nearby farmland and intentionally pumping into the Kinnickinnic River system. The latter would likely face a difficult permitting process, but the idea could be more palatable now that Roberts’ new algae system is boosting the quality of water coming out of the village’s treatment plant.

READ MORE: Power of algae propels new technology in Roberts as report warns of flooding risk

Friends of the Twin Lakes aims to stop wastewater coming from Roberts and eventually restore the lakes to their pre-1960s condition before the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permitted discharge.

“This could have a happy ending,” said Friends of the Twin Lakes member Dan Funk, who envisions the eventual return of water recreation.

The water level of Twin Lakes has increased 5.8 feet over the past 12 years, according to the SEH study. That’s roughly the amount of inflow from the treatment plant, members of Friends of the Twin Lakes have noted.

The group has called on the DNR to play a larger role in addressing the flooding problem and provide expertise to local governments.

Flooding has displaced a handful of area homeowners. The Indigo Ponds neighborhood about two miles west also is experiencing high water issues.

High water is a statewide problem, DNR wastewater engineer Geisa Thielen said, adding the department has received four inquiries about lake drawdown in the west-central region. A multi-program high water team has formed to respond to the inquiries.

What's next?

The town of Warren held an open house Feb. 15 to discuss options for 107th Street and a recent study by Stevens Engineering. Rising water on Twin Lakes has started to affect the roadway and jeopardize safe access for area residents.

The three potential solutions according to the meeting agenda are:

  • Raise 107th Street by two feet, and then continue to raise it by a foot every two years. This option would be ineligible for grants and comes with no safety features. Cost: $2 million
  • A 10-year plan to raise the street by five feet, along with added safety features. This solution would be eligible for grants. Cost: $5 million
  • Adding a high ridge road between 103rd and 107th streets (considered a permanent solution). Cost: $4 million

Estimated costs do not include utilities, property acquisition and other expenses. Feedback from residents will be used to refine the options, which will then be presented at a later date to Town Board, according to an invite for the open house.

Representatives from the village of Roberts and town of Warren have formed a Twin Lakes Joint Committee, but it hasn’t convened since October 2020.