Michigan high water summit addresses record-setting water levels forecast

Feb 11, 2020

Michigan is preparing for more damage that could come from even higher water levels.

On Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer met with federal, state and local officials in Lansing for the first Michigan High Water Coordinating Summit.

Forecasts show water levels in the state could break a 120-year historic record this spring, according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The state says because water level issues happen more gradually and don’t really have an end date, collaboration between agencies is key. 

“This is a situation that is going to take a coordinated effort," says EGLE Spokesman Nick Assendelft. “Communication is going to be important, and we hope to get a much better idea in terms of the resources that are available so that we can help Michiganians around the state.”

Throughout the state, EGLE says the high water levels have already caused millions of dollars in damage to private property and public infrastructure, including roads and Michigan State Parks. Water levels are also impacting community water systems and causing other public health concerns.

Mark Breederland is with Michigan Sea Grant and was at the summit yesterday. He says the state is prepared to respond to one-time natural disasters like tornadoes, but not with rising water levels. 

“We’re very well prepared in Michigan for a tornado crisis. A tornado would come and go, an emergency center would be set up, and people that are impacted would be helped, and then cleanup would happen,” he says.

“This is a crisis in slow motion that just keeps coming, and we’re not really geared for the long-term, the inundation, and some of these ongoing issues. It is an all-hands-on-deck issue.”

Town hall meetings will be held in the spring throughout Michigan to let residents know how the state can help respond to high water levels.