New flooding adds to Rice Lake woes

RICE LAKE Rice Lake property owners are scrambling again as thawing weather means new threats to roads, the sewer system and homes.

“Same battle new month. We continue to fight the fight,” said Steve Zaun, chairman of the Rice Lake board.

Rice Lake homeowners have diked, raised roads and fought to protect their properties from a lake that has been rising since 2011. Some already have lost the fight.

“It’s not pretty out here. It used to be a beautiful place. Now it’s not good at all,” said Lane Irwin, a year-round resident whose home remains above the water level. He said some neighbors haven’t fared as well. At least three year-round residents have left in the past month. One neighbor had the water come up two to three feet this spring on his seasonal home.

“He’s more or less lost it now,” Irwin said.

Brian Thordal said the main floor of his Rice Lake home flooded March 7.

“I moved into the neighbor’s garage for a couple of nights. Now I am staying inside their house,” he said. He expects to remain there as guests of the neighbors, who are wintering in Arizona, until he figures out what to do. His home is gone, he said.

Irwin said he’s been helping pump water at the seasonal home of his brother, which is getting pressure on the basement. Owners of the home next door lost their basement this winter.

The road in that area, built up last year, also is about ready to go under, Irwin said.

The Rice Lake board is having an engineer look at raising the lake road again, said board chairman Steve Zaun. A contractor also has been working for the past week to protect the sewer system from flooding.

“The lake continues to flood, and it increases every day,” Zaun said. “The water flow is so strong right now. We are trying to keep ahead of that.”

He said homeowners anticipated problems once the snow began melting and ice started coming off the lake.

“The lake has been rising all winter so we have been preparing for this battle all winter,” he said. “The lake is higher than it ever has been.”

Jerome Hilson was forced to abandon his property, including his year-round home, now under water, in 2012.

“We can’t fix it up, can’t sell it, can’t move it,” he said, noting there’s been no financial help other than flood insurance.

“There’s nothing we can do,” he said. “I am sure we probably never will go back.”