By Jim Hayden
Saugatuck City is studying remedies to help Water and Lucy streets residents and business owners dealing with Kalamazoo River flooding due to high Lake Michigan levels and heavy rains.
“The problem isn’t going away,” said Mark Klungle at the Monday city council meeting. He and John Sharar of Retro Boat Rentals have been providing electricity and equipment to pump the floodwaters off the streets.
Pumps are running all day every day, according to Sharar, but he will close down his business as the season ends and stop the pumps.
“We’ve taken some responsibility, but I hope the city will take some,” he said.
River water is rising through storm drains and pouring into the streets. Businesses have installed wooden walkways over the water so customers can reach their facilities.
Klungle, Sharar and others put sandbags around the drain openings to stop the backwash from the river, then pump the remaining water back into the river.
Recent heavy downpours have also contributed to the flooding.
City engineers Fleis & VandenBrink have looked at elevating portions of Water and Lucy streets to alleviate the flooding at a cost of about $200,000 — $100,000 to reconstruct about 350 feet of Lucy from Water to Butler streets, plus another $100,000 for other issues such as storm sewer improvements and sidewalk and driveway replacements, according to city documents.
Capital improvement projects will be discussed in upcoming meetings and the council will need to prioritize what needs to be done, said City Manager Kirk Harrier.
No decisions were made at this week’s meeting.
Lake Michigan water levels are continuing their season decline but remain well above the long-term average, according to measurements from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the group that monitors Great Lakes water levels.
August water levels for Lakes Michigan-Huron, considered one by the Corps because they are linked by the Straits of Mackinac, were 581.78 feet above sea level, a drop of 1.80 inches from July’s 581.93 feet. August was 14.88 inches above last year’s mark and 30.12 inches above the long-term average, according to Corps records.
The August measure was 2.52 inches below the record high of 581.99 feet set in 1986. The lake level was within a half-inch of a record high in June this year.
Council Monday also approved $5,000 to participate in a $50,000 state Waterway Grant to analyze sediment contamination in the Kalamazoo River harbor area. The state will pay $25,000 with the rest coming from the city, Allegan County, Douglas city, Saugatuck Township and the Saugatuck-Douglas Area Chamber of Commerce, a group headed by R.J. Peterson, owner of Tower Marine in Douglas.
The analysis could show the sediment no longer contains toxins sent downstream decades ago by paper mills as far inland as Kalamazoo, a boost to the area’s tourist economy, according to Mayor Ken Trester.
The sedimentation study is part of a larger look at ways to move silt out of the river to Lake Michigan through a process called channelization.