ALLEGAN — As high water levels and heavy precipitation continues in parts of West Michigan, resources are being spent to mitigate issues caused by flooding.
In Allegan County, commissioners are once again pushing for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to allocate emergency funding and other state resources to alleviate damage caused by erosion.
The Allegan County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on May 28 asking State Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, and Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, to request Whitmer to declare a state of emergency over the flooding.
Erosion caused by high water levels and flooding has put homes in Allegan County at risk. Saugatuck Township Fire District Chief Greg Janik told commissioners emergency workers cannot even access 12 homes on Lakeshore Drive in the township due to concerns about the stability of the roadway.
Commissioner Dean Kapenga, who represents Saugatuck Township, said local governments don’t have the budget flexibility needed to address the roadway.
"Because of this huge cliff area that’s eroding, (Janik) feels it's unsafe to even take a truck down there," Kapenga said. "Just to temporarily support it, it would cost $750,000, a permanent structure would be much more than that, much more money than the budget could handle.
"We can’t handle it. We’ve exhausted what funds we have. We’ve used the road commission, local governments."
Kapenga said surveyors who’ve evaluated the area believe that further erosion will take place, leading to more homes being at risk.
In February, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said high water and erosion would continue along Lake Michigan throughout 2020.
Kapenga said county and local government officials are concerned over the safety of residents, as well as the potential for property damage due to the erosion.
"The cliff is enormous. If you simply look at the degree of what the cliff is going to, you can see all the houses that are in danger if the shoreline keeps eroding. It’s going to get worse and worse and worse."
While Whiteford and Nesbitt sent Whitmer a letter asking for an emergency declaration in December 2019, Kapenga said the governor has been unresponsive to requests over the erosion so far.
A message was left with Whiteford’s office. Nesbitt’s voicemail was full. A spokesperson with the governor’s office did not immediately respond for comment.
"When the legislators as a group asked her, she denied. So we’re pushing for them to ask again," Kapenga said.
— Contact reporter Arpan Lobo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @arpanlobo.