With the record-high water levels, Michigan is experiencing, communities and residents across the state are facing flooding, crumbling infrastructure, erosion and loss of property. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) have indicated the erosion occurring is comparable to 1986, when it was then recorded as the highest water level seen in a century. And with expected water tables to be as high as a foot from ground level this spring, it will also mean additional flooding and damage to property—for shoreline and inland communities.
MTA joined local, state and federal officials in Michigan's first High Water Coordinating Summit to collaborate and share resources to respond to public health and safety challenges. Summit participants-- including MTA District 13 Director Tom Paige, Executive Director Neil Sheridan and Director of Member Information Services Michael Selden--agreed to form the "Michigan High Water Team," an ad hoc team focused on identifying available assets for high water incidents and helping coordinate communication between agencies and local governments to keep residents informed.
"High water and erosion issues are placing our infrastructure and personal property at risk, and will negatively impact the upcoming seasons for two of Michigan's most important industries: agriculture and tourism. State and federal governments are working to protect local communities and share resources for assistance," Sheridan said.
State budget and legislative efforts
To address this, the governor’s budget request includes $40 million for local climate-resilient infrastructure grants to local governments. These funds would allow communities to plan for and address the negative impacts of Michigan’s changing climate conditions and help deal with the damage of shoreline erosion and high water levels.
Four bills moving through the state Legislature aim to curtail some of the damage that occurs during high water conditions.
- Senate Bill 714, sponsored by Sen. Roger Victory (R-Georgetown Chtr. Twp.), would allow property owners to construct temporary erosion control structures during times of high water levels without a permit, under specific guidelines.
- House Bills 5401 and 5402, sponsored by Rep. Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Twp.), would allow for temporary speed restrictions during high water conditions.
- HB 5463, sponsored by Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp.), would permit a local unit of government to request a temporary ordinance be established for speed limits on water bodies for up to six months.
At this time, a permit is needed for a proposed structure from both EGLE and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. To make the joint permit process easier and more streamlined, it can be completed online. A new "Minor Project" category was established for sandbag stabilization. This means a faster permit processing for homeowners and a reduced fee of $100. A public notice is also not necessary for meeting review requirements. Much of the material shared with the subcommittee can be found on EGLE's webpage for Great Lakes High Water Levels, which also includes a webinar on EGLE's response to erosion and the base rules and processes for obtaining permits.
Anyone with questions can contact the Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278 and indicate you are calling about "high water" or email EGLEfirstname.lastname@example.org.
A series of town halls on high water levels will be held around Michigan beginning in the spring. MTA will continue to keep members updated and will share the calendar of the town halls once it becomes available.