What can be done to prevent destructive floods in metro Detroit?

Posted at 8:34 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2022-03-17 20:27:22-04

DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ)  — You have seen the destructive power of this weekend's rains, leaving so many with damaged homes and cars. Why couldn’t our infrastructure handle the weather and what is being done to fix it?

MDOT tells 7 Action News much of the infrastructure in metro Detroit is designed to handle three inches of rain in 24 hours. In some areas, we got about twice that. It raises the question. Do we need to prepare to handle more rain?

“We definitively have an aging infrastructure that can compete with any third world country. Not anybody should be proud of it,” said U.S. Rep Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan).

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell is from Dearborn and says to her it is clear. As climate change appears to be delivering more rain more often, we need to take action.

“This has taken a toll. Unfortunately, I have too many stories of the damage that Dearborn and Dearborn Heights have seen,” she said.

“Some of the infrastructure was created 50 to 100 years ago for the needs at that time. We have grown so much,” said Beverly Watts, Wayne County Department of Public Services director.

Watts says leaders know what the problems are. The issue is funding. I-94 is vulnerable to flooding like we saw because it is relatively low. We rely on pumps to clear water. During this storm power outages left pump stations useless. Watts wants them modernized.

“Just to do one pump station alone that is $2 million. And that is to upgrade one pump station. And then we have to kick in where we have generators,” she said.

But then once you pump that water, where does it go? Is there a better option than just sending it into overwhelmed creeks like we do on I-94? MDOT is building a drain under I-75 right now to prevent floods as we saw in 2014 on that interstate. It will hold millions of gallons until the municipal drain system can handle it.

“One of the advantages of I-75 is we have the Oakland County Drain right where the tunnel terminates,” said Rob Morosi of MDOT.

However, it costs $162 million dollars and is much smaller than a drain would be if we were to do the same on I-94.

“Where is the money? We do not have the financing to build a drainage tunnel to incorporate all of the suburbs and the City of Detroit into a drainage tunnel for I-94,” Morosi said.

Morosi said that MDOT is looking at different ways to manage water on I-94 with green spaces, retention ponds and other options.

“We are investigating ways that are not only efficient but cost-effective,” Morosi said.

Representative Dingell says she is writing a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers to ask it to develop a plan to prevent these floods. She says once there is a plan for infrastructure to prevent what has in recent years become a repetitive problem, she will lobby for funding for it.