TEXAS TOWNSHIP, Mich. — There is a plan to bring water levels down at Eagle and Crooked lakes, where flooding has plagued homeowners for nearly a year. Texas Township leaders are working to come up with the roughly $800,000 cost of the plan; but Township Supervisor John Hinkle said the money is not the main concern.
The timeline is causing the biggest worries for Hinkle and homeowners along the lakes; and that timeline is being stymied by an unexpected delay, one caused by the U.S. government shutdown.
“It’s frustrating because we’re in crisis here," Hinkle said.
Township homeowners have been living with flooding, cracked floors and the constant fear that one more big rain storm or snow thaw will force them to leave their homes.
Now, Hinkle said, the shutdown has closed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which must provide an important approval step for the project to move forward.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials said they need approval from the EPA before signing off on the flood relief plan, which involves pumping water out of both lakes and into nearby Bass Lake.
The EPA approval is necessary because of a snake that resides along the project path to Bass Lake. That snake is a federally protected species.
The EPA could have taken several months to review the plan even if the government was never shutdown. At a Charter Township of Texas Flooding Task Force meeting Wednesday, Michigan DEQ’s Derek Haroldson said he isn’t sure how much the shutdown could impact the timeline.
Russ Walters lives at Crooked Lake in the township and said any further delay is too much.
“We’re sitting here day after day hearing more and more issues that keep coming up,” Walters said. “We need to get this done, and we want to do it the right way, but we were hoping to get it done in December. Now we’re talking about maybe April, May.”
Jon Hinkle lives on Treasure Island. He said if Eagle Lake levels get any higher, the entire island could be cut off; the island is a peninsual surrounded by the arms of Eagle Lake.
“If we don’t drain it, we’re done,” resident John Dixon said. “I used to see tranquility and now I see fear. It’s really not a very pleasant place to be.”
Texas Township Superintendent Julie VanderWiere said people living outside the lake should care about what’s happening to these homeowners. She said the township has the highest taxable value of any in Kalamazoo County. If the value of the lakeside properties drops, which homeowners have said is already happening, VanderWiere said that means less tax revenue for the rest of the county.
VanderWiere said less revenue could force limitations on county services, or diminish funding for schools.
She said she also fears for homeowners.
“It is a crisis and people are very afraid that they’re going to lose their homes,” she said.
John Casper lives at Bass Lake. He’s concerned the plan could introduce invasive species into Bass Lake and damage what has been his dream living environment. He said the current plan sacrifices the properties of a few to save those of others.
“Well, I think it’s going to be that, if they do it,” Casper said.
Walters said that however things end up, something needs to happen now.
“It’s really bad now for some people and we don’t want it to be any more people if we can help it, and that’s what we’re trying to fight for,” Walters said.