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FEMA workshop to address flooding here

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Scott Sullivan, Editor

With high water levels, rain, snow and winds continuing to threaten Lake Michigan shoreline communities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will host a flood map information open house Thursday, Dec. 5, in the Carnegie Room of the Allegan District Library, 331 Hubbard St., Allegan, from 5 to 7 p.m.

The public is invited to review new preliminary floodplain maps for the big lake shoreline and talk to experts about how these can impact communities and landowners.

Included will be a recently-completed preliminary Flood Insurance Study and Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

These provide base flood (also known as the 1-percent annual chance event) information, designate areas that are subject to significant flood hazards within Allegan County shoreline areas and offer data public officials may use when permitting development in the floodplain.

Representatives from local, state and federal agencies will provide the most current information about flood risk, insurance, floodplain development regulations and the process for floodplain mapping.

Once the new maps become effective, they will be used as the basis for flood insurance ratings as well as local flood protection regulations adopted under the National Flood Insurance Program.

FEMA also intends that they be used as tools to help planning processes and outreach efforts to quickly respond to and recover from future events.

Property owners, realtors, lenders and insurance agents are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about coastal flood risk and hazard mitigation within their communities.

Lake Michigan reached 581.74 feet above sea level last month, as measured by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District hydrologists, just shy of the October 1986 record of 582.35 inches. They stood at 581.5 feet as of last week, 16 inches higher than in November last year.

Erosion last month swallowed part of a bluff about 500 feet south of the 1986 washout that took out a quarter-mile of Lakeshore Drive in Saugatuck Township, prompting the Allegan County Road Commission to narrow the road in front of 2783 Lakeshore to one lane and divert it onto gravel inland.

Beach stairs — including ones at Pier Cove and West Side County parks — as well as private steps up and down the coast have collapsed.

The township on Halloween Day hosted officials from Douglas and Saugatuck cities, the Saugatuck Township Fire District, Kalamazoo Lake Sewer and Water Authority, the ACRC, Allegan County Emergency Services and the Sheriff’s Department to discuss both their individual roles and joint steps to address the issue.

“Corps hydrologists expect Great Lakes levels to continue rising through at least this spring, perhaps exceeding their 1986 record levels,” said county EMS director Scott Corbin, who is working to draft both incident and longer-term action plans.

“This problem isn’t going to go away soon,” he said.

Digital files of the Preliminary FIRMs and FIS report to be shared next week can be downloaded at fema.gov/preliminaryfloodhazarddata.