MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure Connects with Legislators this Summer

August 2, 2021

In the summer months, legislators return home from Washington, D.C., during recesses. The Midland Business Alliance (MBA) Advisory Committee on Infrastructure recognized this as an important time to make contact with federal and state officials. Representatives of the committee have been reaching out with background information, the vision and the scope of flood mitigation and resiliency building in the mid-Michigan area.Midland Business Alliance - Advisory Committee on Infrastructure

Formed in early 2021, the MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure has a broad mandate to examine any infrastructure issue that impacts the quality of life and economic vitality of the Midland area. Legacy flooding challenges and related sanitary sewer issues are the first areas of focus. The committee is charged with finding the best ways to work with local, state and federal partners to address the longstanding flood issues that impact the citizens, business community and economic development in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

“One part of the committee’s effort is advocacy,” said Bill Schuette, community volunteer and committee member. “We need to be in regular contact with lawmakers because they will, in turn, advocate for us in Washington and in Lansing. Flood mitigation in mid-Michigan is likely to be a complex and lengthy project. If it were easy, it would have been done long ago. We will need the support of funding and expertise from federal and state resources.”

The committee created a “Mid-Michigan Flood Mitigation Fact Sheet – July 2021” to help introduce the project to legislators and government officials. The fact sheet is available by clicking here.

“We have been working with several firms to further the committee’s work,” said Lee Ann Keller, co-chair of the committee. “First, Squire Patton Boggs is a law firm with public policy expertise. Members of the firm have started advocating for our flood mitigation goals in Washington and Lansing with agencies and legislators. Second, we are working with AMPM, Inc., a Midland-based communication firm, that has been helping us communicate regularly with the public, stakeholders and legislators. Third, as we work to paint a picture of what flood mitigation might look like in mid-Michigan, we asked AECOM, a global infrastructure consulting firm, to help us predict the scope of potential mitigation and resilience projects.”

“We asked AECOM for initial concepts, examples of best practices in nature-based flood mitigation, as well as a broad ballpark estimate of the budget,” said J.W. Fisher, co-chair of the committee. “Understanding that we are still pre-hydrologic/hydraulic study with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we wanted to be able to give legislators an idea of what we’re trying to do and the scope. This isn’t a few million dollars. We’re predicting that it’s more like $350 to 500 million.” Fisher also pointed out that AECOM was asked to help with this early conceptual work but has not been contracted for future engineering work. Any future work would include a normal bid process.

The types of future engineering solutions could include large-scale detention, local drainage improvements, river engineering and the potential for levees in some areas. Large-scale detention could involve expanding and rehabilitating wetlands and swamplands. Waters at flood stage could be routed to these areas to reduce the volume of downstream flow. These detention areas could also double as recreation areas and additional wildlife habitat. For local drainage, improvements can be made with storm drains, channels and ponds to reduce urban stormwater runoff across impermeable surfaces. With river engineering, the original, natural functions of rivers and streams are assessed to identify “soft” engineering solutions – versus “hard” features like concrete-lined channels. This can enhance the look of water features and the recreational use. Where space is limited, levees can block flow from entering low-lying areas.

“There are many examples of successful floodplain mitigation programs, including ones that focus on eco-sensitive solutions,” said Schuette. “We are excited to share our vision with local, state, and federal leaders. We know that the research, engineering and funding will be a long-term effort, but we plan to get it done to improve the quality of life, safety, clean water, jobs and economic growth in mid-Michigan.”

On July 23, the Corps of Engineers presented the County of Midland with a draft proposal to begin the hydrologic/hydraulic study of the Tittabawassee River Watershed. County officials will review the proposal and determine how to proceed. Through the donations of local businesses and foundations, the MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure has pledged to fund the 50 percent cost share by hiring engineering services to aid the Corps of Engineers in completing the study and/or by direct contribution.

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