Grand Haven launches program to prepare for spring flooding

Rising Waters

GRAND HAVEN. Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Haven and its community partners are launching a program this spring to combat property damage caused by high lake and river levels. 

Like other lakeshore communities, Grand Haven has been battling rising waters over the last year. Several neighborhoods have dealt with inundated storm drain systems and frequently closed and flooded roadways. 

“We’ll have a lot of standing water right here and when you go around the corner, this intersection sometimes gets maybe up to 2 feet deep,” Mike Geukes said, describing the problem in his neighborhood. 

Geukes, who relies on a powered wheelchair to get around, lives near 5th and Adams streets in Grand Haven. He said every storm last year meant closed streets and limited accessibility for him.

“It’s a problem and I hope they fix it eventually,” Geukes said.

For other neighbors, water showed up in yards. Krista Wexall said her backyard flooded several times last year.

“I think it’s going to be a lot harder this year,” Wexall said. “It’s affecting a lot of people and their businesses and some people (on the lakeshore) are losing homes.”

The water levels have caused serious damage to city property. City leaders say the water levels have threatened several lift stations, a vital piece of the sewage system. Water has also periodically cut off access to businesses and city boat launches, and caused millions of dollars in damage to roadways.

“We’ve had the most increase over the shortest period of time in recorded history and we don’t know if that’s going to be reflected by another decrease,” City Manager Patrick McGinnis said.

Expecting even higher water levels this spring, the city is now launching a program to provide temporary sandbags and sand so people can protect their property. The city is working with Ottawa County Emergency Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The county has already started distributing sandbags to fire departments in areas that may be threatened by high water.  

They say some of areas they are most concerned about are Harbor Island Drive, the Harbor Island lift station and the neighborhoods prone to flooding. They’re also closely watching the municipal marina office, the Harbor Island Boat Launch and Waterfront Stadium, among other spots. 

“We are unfortunately in a position of managing what gets dealt to us because we can’t control nature,” McGinnis said.

Neighbors say while they expect the spring water levels to pose challenges, they’re sure they’ll be able to weather whatever mother nature brings.

“After a while, you just get used to it and people try to problem-solve as best they can and still be able to enjoy this area for everything that it offers. A little high water won’t keep us down,” Wexall said. 

The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety will offer a training session from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 11 at Grand Haven Department of Public Safety’s Columbus Street Parking lot for residents to learn how to fill and use sandbags. A representative from the Army Corps will have a sandbag filling machine on site.

“The time to prepare for possible spring flooding is now. City of Grand Haven staff are working proactively with our partners at Ottawa County Emergency Management and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to plan for protecting buildings and assisting residents with protecting their property threatened by high water,” Director of Public Safety Jeff Hawke said in a release. 

The department says it will begin offering free sandbags and sand to residents in flood-prone areas on March 16. There are limited quantities of materials and they will be reserved for those most threatened by water. To be added to the sandbag request list, you can call the department during business hours at 616.843.3460. 

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