'Would have been a mess:' Thiensville avoids flooding thanks to reworking of Pigeon Creek

THIENSVILLE -- Across the state, destruction is left behind from storms earlier this week but one local community made it out unscathed. It wasn't because of chance, but good infrastructure that spared the Village of Thiensville.

The latest round of severe weather was the biggest test yet for the village, since it reworked Pigeon Creek to prevent flooding in the area anytime heavy rainfall came through. Prior to the project, an entire parking lot would have been underwater.

Rain or shine, the party at Suburban Motors must go on for Harley Davidson's 115th anniversary.

"We sell a lot of everything here; motorcycles, clothes, food, parts, service," said Todd Berlin, Suburban Motors manager.

When strong storms rolled into Thiensville on Tuesday, Aug. 25 Todd Berlin with Suburban Motors feared he might have to move all of the inventory to a different location.

"It would have been a mess," said Berlin.

That's because Pigeon Creek runs through the property and converges with the Milwaukee River down the road. In 2004 and 2008, heavy rains caused both waterways to overflow which disrupted much of Berlin's business and the rest of downtown.

"We would flood into our service department, showroom, we own a couple buildings across the street that would flood," said Berlin.

Todd Berlin

This time around, the motorcycles and Main Street stayed afloat. Thanks to a federal grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2009, the Village of Thiensville president says the creek has been re-engineered to hold more water for this exact situation.

"We widened the Pigeon Creek channel and then basically converted some wetlands to the north into larger holding tanks as it were," said Van Mobly, village president.

Saving residents a lot of heartache and giving visitors more reason to celebrate.

"When I came down and did my check of the river and under the bridge, we had a lot of room, and it was actually pretty rewarding that the project has been this successful," said Berlin.

FEMA paid for over half of the $3 million project while local tax dollars covered the rest. But the village president says the project likely saved residents $500,000 this week in potential damage costs.