By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — The current North Branch Ecorse Creek Flood Mitigation project is on track for approval and funding by summer of this year for residents in communities affected, Mayor Daniel Paletko said.
During the Feb. 16 public meeting, Paletko gave the public an update on the ongoing project.
Today, Dearborn Heights and other 13 communities that use the Ecrorse Creek are awaiting the results of a second study being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to confirm the results of the first study.
The study should be completed by the end of the month, and sent to the Army Corps for recommendation by August that the project is needed. The Army Corps then sends the study and plan to Congress for approval.
The final step would be for the president to include the cost of the project in his funding where he will concur with the Congress for final approval.
Major rainfall in the area has and still causes sewer backups, rising water levels and property damage for residents. Sewage backups from heavy rainfall is directed to the basements of residents because there are not enough retention basins.
With the suggested project, five or six retention basins will be added throughout the 13 communities affected by flooding, including one in Dearborn Heights.
Backed up sewage water will be held in the basins, flow into the creek, Detroit River and finally Lake Erie.
“The Army Corps has already looked at multiple city-owned properties and land as a possible location for the (Dearborn Heights) basin,” Paletko said.
The North Branch drainage district is approximately 19,000 acres, or 30 square miles.
The North Branch of the Ecorse Creek Drain runs about 16 miles to the Detroit River through Romulus, Dearborn Heights, Allen Park, Melvindale, Lincoln Park and Ecorse.
According to the Alliance of Downriver Watersheds, 57,774 Dearborn Heights residents lived in the watershed area in 2010.
Issues with the North Branch of the Ecorse Creek began in the 1960s but became worse after a 2004 storm caused the creek to rise almost six feet in three hours. More than 1,500 residential dwellings were flooded.
In between, in 2000 Dearborn Heights created the watershed Stewards Commission to increase the level of public involvement in the Rouge River and Ecorse Creek watersheds.
Shortly after, the city of Dearborn Heights petitioned the Wayne County Drain Commissioner for maintenance and improvements of the creek under Chapter 8 of the Michigan Drain Code, according to the creek’s website.
The board ordered the drain commissioner to create a flood control project, including a flood control study that was finished by 2006 determining that the creek flooding was an issue.
The study suggestion created by the Saginaw-based Spicer Group came with a $360 million price tag and called for a widening and deepening of the creek along with the removal of homes affected by the creek.
Next, Wayne County Circuit Court ordered the implication of the study, but the federal government suggested the involvement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce cost.
The Army Corps plan resulted in a $260 million price tag, $100 million cheaper than the Spicer Group.
The plan was approved by the city in 2010 to make the necessary improvements and prevent future flash flooding for residents.
Included in the Army Corps study was the widening and deepening of the creek, but on a smaller scale, with the option to individually address houses with special issues.
“A single optimized retention basin located just northeast of Powers Avenue and Inkster Road, with greenway channel improvements of varying widths,” the study read. “The channel improvements entail constructing a 35-foot-wide greenway channel from Madison Street to westbound 1-94 and a 15-foot wide greenway channel from westbound l-94 to Allen Road. Downstream of Allen Road to the Detroit River, the channel improvements vary in width.”
If the $260 million project is picked up and approved by the Army Corps, about $169 million will be paid for by the federal government with the $91 million bonded over 30 years.
“Anyone who uses the creek from the 13 communities, including residents, businesses and government will be responsible for paying,” Paletko said. “There are currently 26,000 properties in Dearborn Heights and the cost will be determined by the value of each property.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at email@example.com.)