Midland County to receive $3.75 million for flood control

Midland County will receive $3.75 million in 2023 federal monies for new and ongoing flood control projects, according to a press release from the Midland Business Alliance Advisory Committee on Infrastructure.

Ten community organizations teamed up early on following the 2020 Tittabawassee River dam collapses. Under the auspices of the MBA, they formed the Advisory Committee on Infrastructure. Requests were made and continue to be made for the support of local projects. Funds were allocated in the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act 2023 signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 29.

Flooding in Midland County, May 2020. (PC: Ben Tierney)The appropriations bill included these projects and policy direction:

$1 million for the City of Midland – Sylvan pump station detention basin project.
  • $2 million for the MyMichigan Medical Center Midland – boiler plant and flood resiliency project
  • $750,000 for Midland County – floodplain reconnection and enhancement project
  • Report language that directs the coordination between five federal agencies to support environment-based flood mitigation measures
Tony Stamas is the president and CEO of the Midland Business Alliance.“We thank our representatives in Washington, D.C. – especially Congressman John Moolenaar and senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters – for including our requests for fiscal year 2023,” says Tony Stamas, MBA president and CEO. “Like the federal project funding we received for 2022, these 2023 funds will help with mid-Michigan’s restoration and resiliency building after recent flood events.”

Monies are in addition to the $12.65 million 2022 allocations that include:

$1.65 million in FY 2022 Federal Community Project Funding – $750,000 for the City of Midland storm/sanitary sewer improvements project, $500,000 for Midland Center for the Arts revitalization following flooding, and $400,000 for Midland County flood data collection tools/planning
  • $3 million estimated savings from FEMA cost-share adjustment for 2020-21 major disasters (adjusted from a 75% federal share to “no less than 90% of eligible costs”)
  • $3 million state appropriations for flood reduction planning (engineering services for shorter-term projects and second USACE study)
  • $5 million from Michigan Public Acts of 2022 toward the MyMichigan Medical Center Midland boiler plant/flood resiliency.
Lee Ann Keller is the co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Infrastructure.
“I’m amazed,” says Lee Ann Keller, president and CEO of Omni Tech, co-chair along with J.W. Fisher, president of Fisher Companies, of the MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure. “Amazed by how much the committee has raised, considering that the committee is all volunteer and that the requests are so technical.” 

She explained that the 10 community organizations initially raised $900,000 as match money for projects at the state and federal level. The organizations and businesses provided early funding to support the committee’s efforts: Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, Corteva, Dow Company Foundation, Fisher Companies, Hemlock Semiconductor Corp, Midland Area Community Foundation, MyMichigan Health, Patricia and David Kepler Foundation, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, and Three Rivers Corp.

“To date, the return on their community investment has been multiplied by 18.7 (return on investment) thanks to the efforts of our committee and our legislators,” Keller says. “We feel proud that these $16.4 million in grants will help rebuild from the floods and make us more resilient in the future.”

MyMichigan Resiliency

MyMichigan Medical Center Midland sustained damage exceeding $13 million from the May 2020 flood. The boiler plant – which provides steam for critical functions at the hospital and campus – was surrounded by five feet of water.
Rob Young, MyMichigan Health Facilities & Construction Director
Says Rob Young, MBA, CHFM, NICET, system director of Facilities and Construction, MyMichigan Health. “The construction of a new boiler plant, located outside of the flood-prone area on higher ground, is essential to support critical functions of the hospital and campus.”

The $2 million grant comes from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Health Facilities Construction and Equipment funding and will fund the early construction phase of the estimated $8 million boiler planSeparately, the Michigan legislature approved $5 million in 2022 for this project. This first phase will be completed in 2023, with the new boilers installed and operational by 2024.

Flooding over the deck of the Currie Parkway Bridge, May 21, 2020
Sylvan Pump Station Detention Basin

During the 2017 flood, neighborhoods upstream and downstream from the Sylvan pump station were impacted severely, causing extensive private property damage in excess of $20 million. 

“This detention basin will provide storage capacity at three times the volume we saw with the 2017 flood,” says Midland City Manager Brad Kaye. “This increase in storage capacity not only provides additional security and resiliency, it also creates more flexibility for the City in controlling how much of the water is injected back into the system following a flood event.

The $1 million grant for the City of Midland comes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) program. The City is expected to provide matching funds. 

Midland County Floodplain Reconnection and Enhancement

Midland County has hundreds of miles of “trapezoidal” drains, which are deep, V-shaped open ditches. “There are two reasons why this design is flawed,” said Joe Sova, Midland County Drain Commissioner. “Historically, soil from the trench was piled up on the sides when these drains were constructed. This practice ‘disconnected’ – or caused a barrier between – the naturally present floodplains and their adjacent watercourses. Second, the shape of the drains increases stormwater velocity during intense precipitation. Today, we understand that we need to slow down the velocity of stormwater.”

Midland County is working with the Nature Conservancy, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), private landowners and other local partners and stakeholders.

The $750,000 grant comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service, Conservation Operations. “A two-stage drainage ditch slows stormwater velocity during large runoff events, reduces soil erosion, encourages vegetation growth and wildlife habitat, improves soil health and water quality, and reduces damage caused by floods,” says Sova.

Keller said work also is continuing this year on $117 million in future requests.

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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at ralphewirtz@gmail.com.