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Flooded West Michigan community asking Governor Whitmer for help

A pump pours water onto the backyard of Nina Longjohn's home along Pine Island Lake in Kalamazoo County. (Jorge Rodas/WWMT)
A pump pours water onto the backyard of Nina Longjohn's home along Pine Island Lake in Kalamazoo County. (Jorge Rodas/WWMT)
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Homeowners living near several lakes in Kalamazoo County have asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to reverse a state agency's decision to require decreased pumping rates at two flooded lakes.

Families in the Charter Township of Texas had been dealing with flooding since the fall of 2017.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) permitted the township to pump water out of Eagle Lake and Crooked Lake earlier in 2019.

Pumping began in late May at a rate of 2,000 gallons per minute and water levels at Eagle Lake, Crooked Lake, and Pine Island Lake dropped almost a foot from their highest points.

EGLE requested pumping rates to be lowered by half to 1,000 gallons per minute in September after monitors noticed impacts on downstream wetlands, according to a EGLE spokesperson Scott Dean.

Lake levels steadily rose again afterward, according to township data.

EGLE permitted the township to increase that rate to 1,200 gallons per minute in November.

"Due to the season, and the fauna that utilize the wetland ecosystems for hibernation, it is important that little fluctuation in downstream groundwater elevation occur, as to protect the numerous reptiles and amphibians that are dependent on a stable groundwater level," Dean said.

Another EGLE representative was at Thursday's Flooding Task Force meeting.

“We began to see the impacts in July,” the representative told the task force.

Homeowners and several lake associations from the impacted area said they reached out to Whitmer for help reversing EGLE's pumping requirements. They said they want pumping to increase back to 2,000 gallons per minute.

Nina Longjohn said her backyard has turned into a marsh. She pointed to sandbags she and her husband used to protect their home which she said have been in place for "over a year."

"We had no water in the backyard at all," she said. "We built 50 feet away from water, and now we're, what, 20 feet, maybe 15 feet."

Len Bosma, with the Eagle Lake Texas Association, echoed a sentiment shared by many homeowners when he said he believes state is protecting a small acreage of land at the expense of many families.

"It's 20 acres as opposed to six to eight hundred residents who are losing their homes," Bosma said.

Bosma said he sent a collection of letters, more than 30 pages in all, to Whitmer.

He said homeowners are requesting three things:

  1. A response from the Governor's office.
  2. A date for when Whitmer could come visit the flooded areas.
  3. If she couldn't visit, a date for when homeowners could travel to Lansing to visit her.

Bosma told the Flooding Task Force the Governor's office said it is working on replying to their requests.

Many homes had pumps running Thursday as they continued battling waters they said had force several families to leave their homes.

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"Moving forward, EGLE staff continue to be committed to working with the township on managing a pumping rate that is both protective of the downstream wetland ecosystems, while also working towards the goal of the Township to lower lake level elevations on Eagle and Crooked Lakes. Despite the continuing challenges, we look forward to moving forward with the township and the Flooding Task Force on this important project," Dean said.

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