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Expect high water levels and currents to remain on Wisconsin River, say officials

Wisconsin River
Wisconsin River
Wisconsin Valley Improvement... (Download MP3)

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) - Officials at the company in charge of coordinating the Wisconsin River's water levels are working hard to keep up with the recent rains.

Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company operations manager Peter Hansen says the heavier than usual rains have been a blessing. "The last nine ten years, we've been in a drought. Usually we're releasing waters to maintain a minimum flow, now we have that simply from runoff." A number of reservoirs and hydroelectric dams also have their flood control gates open simply to keep water flowing through the rivers and keep reservoirs at their capacity.

Hansen says that is a welcome change, but also brings some challenges and danger to the rivers. "The energy that's released with that water is awfully high, and no matter how good of a swimmer you are, you're not going to beat that current." That current is what lead to a pair of rescues in the waters near Fern Island in Wausau. The park is less than a mile from the Wausau hydroelectric dam, where floodgates are currently open.

Officials expect the dams to have those gates open for at least another week. Hansen says that's all dependant on how much precipitation continues to fall. "If we don't get precipitation in the next 5 or 7 that creates runoff, you could see us us starting to release water like we usually do in the summer." That may come after the July 4th holiday.