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Congressional delegations asks for more fed aid; emergency work to fully open I-94; full damage seen

Wisconsin could get more flood disaster relief sooner under a supplemental spending bill that's now in Congress.

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., says he and his colleagues from other flooded-out states are trying to get emergency funds into the package.

Seven counties in southern Wisconsin have been declared federal disaster areas and the state's congressional delegation has asked Pres. George Bush to quickly include 23 other counties Gov. Jim Doyle listed in a state of emergency last week.

Much of Rock and Jefferson counties are still under water, a week-and-a-half after the first floods arrived. Neither county is a declared disaster area yet, but FEMA inspectors will visit Rock County today along with Grant, Ozaukee, and Sheboygan.

Yesterday, Ozaukee County announced a preliminary damage total of $5.4 million. Total damages are $200 million and rising.

Rivers are still rising in some places. 87 nursing home residents in Fort Atkinson were evacuated Tuesday and Jefferson's sewage plant was handling two million gallons more than its daily capacity.

Green Lake, the state's deepest natural lake, has spread water into basements in several communities.

Dry weather is in the forecast for all of Wisconsin at least into Friday.

I-94 problems

It will cost almost 900-thousand-dollars to build a cross-over lane on Interstate-94, so the road can re-open to westbound traffic in flooded Jefferson County.

About a dozen road builders responded to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's emergency request for the project.

Kevin Chesnik, a DOT administrator Kevin Chesnik said Hoffman Construction of Black River Falls was chosen because it could start the soonest.

A bidding process was not required.

The cross-over lane will be built by the end of the week. It will create one lane of traffic in each direction for several miles, reopening the busy Interstate to westbound traffic for the first time since late last week.

For six days, drivers going from Milwaukee to Madison have had a detour as far south as Beloit. Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi says it's been hurting commerce and the emergency project had to be done for the state's own good.

Engineers see more damage

As flood waters go down, folks are seeing the damage to Wisconsin roads, bridges and treatment plants.

In Sauk County, about 60-percent of the highways have at least some kind of damage and the repairs will cost at least $2 million.

Workers will be under the gun to get everything back to normal, but experts say it will take months.

Baraboo city engineer Chuck Bongard expects to work all summer on flood repairs. He says the biggest priority is the street damage caused after the Baraboo River hit record heights.

Juneau County highway crews used their snow-plows to remove mud from the roads.

Smaller counties in southern Wisconsin figure they'll spend $150,000 to $500,000 to fix their highways.

Bridges are another problem altogether. They'll be inspected thoroughly. Experts say air gets trapped underneath the decks - and the rising waters often lift bridges up.

That's why you'll see crews drilling holes in bridge decks. They're letting the air escape.

All the repairs are on top of the millions in scheduled road improvements throughout the region this summer.

Chris Klein, a DOT administrator, says there's no timetable for the repairs needed on state highways and for the moment, they're not even thinking about the impact the flooding might have on this summer's construction projects.

Another FEMA Center

FEMA will open its third Disaster Recovery Center in Wisconsin today (Wednesday).

It's for Crawford County residents who need help recovering from the recent floods.

The center will open at 10 a.m. at North Crawford High School in Soldiers Grove.

Similar offices opened earlier this week in Viroqua and Reedsburg. FEMA is planning to open two centers in Milwaukee County.

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