Federal funds should help manage storms

The Detroit News

Detroit will receive almost $9 million in federal disaster relief funds to help it prepare for future flooding. The money will go toward redevelopment projects in neighborhoods to better prepare the landscape for severe weather.

It’s good news for Detroit, which suffered more than $630 million of damage in the epic flooding of August 2014. Statewide, estimated damage was more than $1.1 billion. President Barack Obama declared the area a major disaster, and more than 120,000 Southeast Michigan residents filed for federal disaster relief funds.

The storm impacted the economy of Detroit and all of Southeast Michigan, and future storms threaten to do the same if improvements aren’t made.

Metro Detroit’s storm water management system is severely aged, and a more resilient infrastructure is needed to deal with torrential rainfall.

During last year’s storm, roughly 10 billion gallons of sewage overflow ran into the drains of more than 70 communities, and ultimately into the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. Worse, nearly 80 percent of the overflow was untreated, threatening residents’ water supply.

Detroit’s system combines both rain water and household sewage, which makes it more prone to flooding because there’s always a base layer of sewage in the system.

When systems like Detroit’s overflow, the dirty water carries bacteria, viruses and untreated industrial wastes – all threats to people and wildlife.

The federal funds, which officials say are intended to mitigate these threats, were announced with much fanfare at a press conference that included Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, U.S. Rep John Conyers, and Julian Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“These three developments will introduce new sources of green energy and beautify the surrounding community,” Castro said of projects in the Brightmoor, Mount Elliot and McDougall-Hunt neighborhoods.

Duggan said trees and other greenery that better absorb and filter water will be planted in the neighborhoods.

Other projects include urban agriculture and public facility improvements in Brightmoor, a solar power unit in Mount Elliott, green and “blue” infrastructure space in McDougall-Hunt and water absorbing landscape installations throughout the city in areas that experienced flooding.

The work will also help beautify the city. The city is partnering with Detroit Future City to develop the plans.

Storms like last year’s are rare and unpredictable, but they do considerable damage to the region’s water supply. Preparing for them is a better approach then waiting to deal with their aftermath.