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Issues Of The Environment: Washtenaw County Flood Greater In 2020

May 6, 2020

Washtenaw County water resources commissioner Evan Pratt
Credit Washtenaw County / washtenaw.org

It's been forecast that this spring will be quite wet.  That could bring flooding to portions of Washtenaw County.  Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Evan Pratt joined WEMU's David Fair to discuss planning for such issues and the proactive nature of work already underway on this week's "Issues of the Environment."


Overview

  • As we head into spring, 2020 is predicted to be very wet, with flood risks for Washtenaw County greater than in 2019. 2019 was a year of record rainfall for the county.
  • Evan Pratt, Water Resources Commissioner at Washtenaw County, points out that water levels in the region are typically at their lowest level this time of year.  His main concern is the fact that surface water and groundwater levels are up along with surface soil saturation as we come into spring rains. 
  • Evan outlined the problem this way:
    • The bathtub is full (Great Lakes)
    • The pipes are full (rivers and stream gauges at record highs earlier this year)
    • The sponge is full (surface soils unusually saturated -- at 95+% in MI/upper midwest going INTO spring rains)

 

  • Damage to homes in southeast Michigan was minimal last year, while the impact of flooding in 2019 was acute for farmers.  Evan reports that the agricultural southeast part of the county was largely untillable, and crop yields were down for corn and soybeans.  “We are hearing more of the same for 2020 from all weather agencies and expect that areas of occasional or frequent flooding will experience a tough year.”

 

  • Finally, Pratt notes that due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Washtenaw County has closed except for essential operations.  “While 2020 presents major challenges, for people on our drains keeping the water flowing is essential, especially this time of year.  We are checking voicemails and emails daily.  As always, residents need to call 9-1-1 for an emergency, otherwise, we will get to everyone.  While we are short-staffed and prioritizing ‘worst first’ through the COVID-19 emergency, we are following up with everyone who reports a problem," he said.  To report an issue on a County Drain call 734-222-6860, or enter a service request online at https://www.washtenaw.org/196/Report-an-Issue

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu