Town Moves Out of Harm’s Way

“We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”, Albert Einstein

Soldiers GroveThis is the extraordinary tale of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, a village of 500 that was located along the meanders of the Kickapoo River to allow timber rafting and to get hydropower for its lumber mills. Proximity to the water was a mixed blessing. Situated at the bottom of a bowl surrounded by mountains, the town was prone to flooding. The small  floods they called “ankle ticklers” but once a decade a major one would be devastating. The courageous and stubborn residents would clean up and rebuild.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, Albert Einstein

1978 Flood 4With time, the floods got worse for reasons that were largely self-inflicted. Deforestation of surrounding hills reduced the amount of water retained by the soil and the runoff  caused erosion that filled the bottom of the river aggravating the floods. After studying the problem for three decades a $3.5 million dam and levee was proposed… to protect $1 million worth of property… In a rare moment of genius someone asked “what if we moved the town?” and the rest is history. In 1979, the town relocated to higher grounds 800 meters away.

Solar Town_PharmacyThe river still floods but the town has been spared and the people of Soldiers Grove have more time (and money) to come up with more brilliant ideas like becoming the first Solar Town in America.

Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP), is one of the humble architects behind the move of Soldiers Grove. Here is his TED version of the story:

Relevant Links:

Soldiers Grove Solar Town

About Bill Becker

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