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Section of I-94 still closed, farmers hurt and Lake Delton gets federal aid

It might be the end of June before you can take Interstate-94 from Madison to Milwaukee.

Officials now say the flooded-out stretch from Delafield to Lake Mills will stay closed for awhile because the Rock and Crawfish rivers will remain above their historic highs for at least seven more days.

Nearby alternates are closed, too and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is still telling Madison drivers to go 40 miles south to Beloit, and then head northeast to Milwaukee.

The National Weather Service says the Rock River could start receding today (Tuesday) and Jefferson County Board chair Sharon Schmeling says there will be a huge recovery effort that's beyond anyone's dreams.

The National Guard will help.

Meanwhile, there are new flood damage estimates of $170 million in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Winnebago, Vernon, and Columbia counties.

Those figures are expected to rise, both there and elsewhere in southern Wisconsin.

Thirty seven people showed up Monday when FEMA opened a Disaster Recovery Office in Reedsburg.

Federal and state inspectors continue to tally the damage, but it could take over a month before all the damage is determined.

Hundreds of homes still have water and things like bridges cannot be checked until the flood waters dissipate.

Farmers miss out

Instead of getting their highest prices ever, many farmers in flooded-out southern Wisconsin will have to settle for federal aid and crop insurance.

It's too early to tell how much the total damage will be.

Agricultural agents say 10-percent of the corn crop in some counties is submerged and ruined.

In Fond du Lac County, where five-inches of rain fell on saturated fields last week, 60-percent of the corn is in severely wet soils, increasing prospects for slow growth and disease.

University of Wisconsin-Madison agronomist Joe Lauer says it's too late to replant corn except for livestock feed and Sheboygan County ag agent Mike Ballweg says crop insurance won't be enough to cover the losses.

That's because planting costs made this year's corn the most expensive crop on record. Meanwhile, it could get harder to sell corn for ethanol.

A Washington lobbying group says investors have scrapped or delayed plans to start-or-expand ethanol production until the market conditions improve.

Wisconsin has nine ethanol plants running, and the nation has 154, with 68 more on the way. A federal mandate requires ethanol in premium-based fuels.

Roger McEowen of the University of Illinois says it's time to consider ending it, but there's no sign of it happening on Capitol Hill.

This week's government crop report said farms in Clark, Dodge, and Jefferson counties were hard-hit by flooding. Just under half the state's corn is in good shape, and 11-percent is excellent.

Lake Delton gets cash

A federal agency is providing $160,000 to help Lake Delton get its water back.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service wants to re-route water back to its original channel, through its normal dam structure.

Last Monday, a wash-out on Sauk County Highway A created a new channel which caused the lake and three homes to flush down the Wisconsin River.

Work was scheduled to begin Monday to prevent a further cutting of the breach, thus avoiding more erosion along the banks.

They also want to stabilize the slope, to prevent more damage from future rainfalls.

Officials said it could cost up to $10 million to put everything back where it was on Lake Delton. The water itself may not return until next year.