City leaders outline preparations for potential spring flooding

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Hannah Watts – Grand Ledge Gazette Reporter

GRAND LEDGE – City leaders outline preparations for possible spring flooding.

Pictured: Eaton County Flood Insurance Study

Pictured: Eaton County Flood Insurance Study

Background and relevance

The Grand River runs directly through downtown Grand Ledge, and historically, has caused severe flooding on several occasions.

“The last bad flooding event in Grand Ledge was in 1975,” said Kalmin Smith, mayor of Grand Ledge. “At that time sandbags were placed at certain spots along the river.”

“Flood producing storms may occur at any time during the year, but are more numerous in late winter through spring,” explains The Flood Insurance Study for Eaton County, completed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Also according to the study, “The Grand River is the second largest river basin in the State of Michigan, having a 5,572-square mile drainage area.”

Flood management is increasingly relevant in late February through May.

Preventive measures

The City of Grand Ledge makes every effort to prevent these damages before they occur, including clearing drains, sewers and catch basins, and fortifying at-risk areas with sandbags.

“One way we deal with potential spring flooding is to send crews out before the rain to remove ice and packed snow from around the catch basins,” Smith said. “This is done to redirect as much water as possible coming from roofs, roads, parking lots and driveways into the storm sewers.”

Larry LaHaie, the Grand Ledge public services director, identified the city’s sanitary sewer system as one of the few areas in the city that are negatively affected by rising river water levels and heavy rainfall.

“Storm water gets into the sanitary sewer as inflow and infiltration,” LaHaie said. “The rain often causes more flow than the system can handle, and so it results in the discharge of untreated and partially treated sewage into the Grand River.”

In addition to the sanitary system, recreational areas are also affected by flooding.

“I’ve seen Jaycee Park be partially flooded and Island Park go completely under numerous times,” LaHaie said.

First responders and improvements to flood management  

Officer Erin Larner of the Grand Ledge Police Department said the police department’s first duty would be to make sure no lives are in danger and explained what to do in the event of flooding.

“If there is severe damage to property or threat of damage to persons, I would suggest calling 911,” Larner said. “If the flooding got bad enough we may call in the National Guard to help with putting up sand bags, but it really depends on the situation.”

Severe weather events, such as flooding, are often costly to private and public entities when it causes property damage.

“The problem persists in spite of the expenditure of several million dollars on numerous projects over the last 30 years,” LaHaie said.

Damage to privately owned property can be just as costly, but the Grand Ledge Fire Department does whatever it can to make the process easier if damages do occur.

“In the past we have helped people fill out insurance paperwork just in case the affected area is declared a disaster zone,” said Rodney Vandecasteele, on-duty firefighter at the Grand Ledge Fire Department.

 

Contact reporter Hannah Watts at wattsha2@msu.edu.

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