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Texas Township residents divided over plan to fix flooding issues

Texas Township residents divided over plan to fix flooding issues. (WWMT/Cyrus Raymond)

Residents living along two flooded lakes in Kalamazoo County urged the state to move forward with a plan to lower lake levels, but residents living downstream are concerned over possible impacts.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is considering a permit requested by Texas Township to pump water from Eagle Lake and Crooked Lake into Bass Lake and nearby wetlands.

At a public meeting hosted by the DEQ Monday at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, hundreds of impacted Eagle and Crooked Lake attended Monday night.

"My entire life is being decimated right now," said one homeowner.

Residents have been dealing with record flooding for close to a year and a half, some said they've spent as much as $40,000 to build seawalls and other flooding barriers. Many fear the problem will only get worse during the spring snow melt.

For more than 20 years, John Dixon has lived on Eagle Lake, but recently has spent thousands of dollars on sandbags and basement sub pumps to stop flood waters that show no signs of letting up.

"It's kind of sad that it got to this point, because it started in October 2017 and this is February 2019," said John Dixon, an Eagle Lake homeowner.

Texas Townshp's proposal is a short-term fix, but residents said it's long overdue.

"Clearly the water just can't get out right now, there's too much going in and it can't get out," said Tom Smith, project manager with Prein & Newhof.

Prein & Newhof, an engineering firm hired by Texas Township in 2018, applied for a permit to lower lake levels by temporarily pumping from Eagle and Crooked lakes into nearby wetlands and ponds.

According to Prein & Newhof's flood study released in November 2018, Crooked Lake is approximately 3.4 feet above its normal level. Smith said it would take approximately nine months to lower water levels three feet.

Smith said one of the main goals of the permit is to prevent adverse impacts downstream.

"We need to make sure that we’re not creating a problem, no buildings would be flooded, no damage downstream," Smith said.

The Department of Environmental Quality will take input for Monday's meeting and will likely make a decision on the final permit as early as March, said DEQ communications director Scott Dean.

If the permit is approved, some residents fear there will be adverse impacts to residents downstream.

Members of the nearby Rota-Kiwan Scout Reservation and homeowners who live near Bass Lake urged the DEQ to deny the permit based on adverse impacts they could face if floodwaters are pushed in their direction.

"Pumping water into bass lake will result in evasive species where none exist, flooding of wetlands, and damage to property," said one Bass Lake resident.

Kalamazoo County Board Commissioner Chair Julie Rogers said the county has never experienced a flooding situation as prolonged.

Rogers said the situation hasn't quite yet risen to the level of an emergency response, but County Commissioner Christine Morse urged the D.E.Q to make a decision quickly.

"Balancing the residents and the interests of everyone involved is very challenging. I would urge you to make a decision as soon as possible," said Morse.

Residents said they've waited too long for nothing to happen.

"We are looking down the barrel of a gun and it's going to go off very soon. It's the only option we have," said Dixon.

The public will have until February 20th to submit public comment to the DEQ. Dean said the project is "a high priority" for the agency.

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