Flood Reduction and Resiliency: Momentum Is Growing
Two years ago, our communities were just starting the long, heartbreaking process of cleaning up from the flood. Many of us can remember the shock – and the resolve – that we saw on faces from Edenville to Sanford and Midland. Since then, much progress has been made – including extensive cleanup and rebuilding. But we all recognize that there is so much more to do. This is especially true when we think of long-term solutions to reduce the frequency and severity of flooding.
Since the 2020 flood and dam failures, we are feeling a certain momentum growing. Part of this is due to the Midland Business Alliance (MBA) Advisory Committee on Infrastructure. As “ex officio” (non-voting) members of the Advisory Committee, we have been working closely with this committee and witnessing firsthand a group of dedicated community volunteers start to push that giant boulder uphill. As some have said before, “If easy, it would have been done 50 years ago.”
The MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure is thinking big and hoping to define doable projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Midland County, the City of Midland, and other community partners and stakeholders. We want to thank the Advisory Committee for volunteering their precious time to move us forward.
One of the first things underway is a hydrologic/hydraulic study of the watershed by the Corps of Engineers. Midland County and the MBA worked together with the Corps to launch this first study in the fall of 2021. The required 50% cost-share was paid with local fundraising done by the Advisory Committee and thanks to the generosity of area foundations and businesses. This cost-share included contracting with a local firm to send surveying crews to collect needed data on the approximately 60 miles of rivers and creeks in Midland County. The GIS mapping and survey data were delivered to the Corps of Engineers earlier this year, and this study will be completed in 2024.
By itself, this hydrologic/hydraulic study will provide important, up-to-date information to the Midland County Office of Emergency Management for emergency preparedness. It also provides the Corps of Engineers with data for “step two”: engineering recommendations for flood reduction. Again working with the Advisory Committee, the County of Midland signed a “letter of intent” earlier this year to further discuss and plan for that second study. The Advisory Committee got busy to find study funding. Recently, the request for state appropriations to help with the second study, local engineering support, communication and administration was approved by Lansing lawmakers.
These studies, choosing solutions, planning, and executing those plans will take years. These will likely be large-scale projects. We do know that the Advisory Committee is most interested in nature-based and eco-sensitive projects, such as creating floodplains and wetlands that can also support wildlife and recreation. We are excited to see what the engineers can envision in the years to come.
While the larger wheels are in motion, the MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure has been helping Midland County, the City of Midland, and local institutions rebuild and add resiliency in the shorter term. They have worked with us and with our state and federal legislators to advocate for our local needs, and they have helped us get policy changes and funding for much-needed projects.
Successful federal 2022 Community Funding Projects included: $750,000 for the City of Midland storm/sanitary sewer improvements project; $500,000 for the Midland Center for the Arts revitalization following the 2020 flooding; and $400,000 for Midland County flood data collection tools and planning (river data monitoring). These appropriations were approved in March.
Another significant challenge was solved with a change to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds. Normally, the FEMA cost-share is 75% federal/25% local. The Advisory Committee and our legislators advocated for more help and were successful in getting an adjustment for 2020-21 major disasters, changing the FEMA cost-share from 75% to “no less than 90% of eligible costs.” This increase in the reimbursement level for our flood-related FEMA projects means a savings of nearly $400,000 for the County alone. The City of Midland stands to save another $740,000 from this single legislative action. The local units of government and nonprofits that have been working through this process with FEMA will need to use less local dollars to restore their properties to pre-flood conditions.
Last month, the Advisory Committee completed the process for submitting our 2023 Community Funding Requests to Congressman John Moolenaar, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Senator Gary Peters. These community projects include: $1 million for the City of Midland’s Sylvan pump station detention basin project (part of the Concept 5 plan); $2 million for a MyMichigan Medical Center Midland boiler plant and flood resiliency project; and $750,000 for a Midland County flood plain reconnection and enhancement project.
We appreciate the members of the MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure who are giving their time, their leadership, and expertise to help us all pull in the same direction and secure funding. We feel this momentum … as small projects are funded … and as multi-year studies are underway. We know it will take time to improve resiliency and reduce the severity of flooding, but we are optimistic thanks to everyone who is involved.
Bridgette Gransden is Administrator/Controller for the County of Midland. She has served in this role since 2009. She started her career with the County of Midland in 1994 as Finance Director.
Brad Kaye has been the Midland City Manager since 2017. He started working for the City of Midland in 2012 as the Director of Planning and Community Development before becoming Assistant City Manager for Development Services in 2015.
More information about the MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure can be found here.