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Posted on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Southwest Ann Arbor residents can weigh in on neighborhood flooding issues during Thursday meeting

By Amy Biolchini

031413_MALLETTS-CREEK.jpg

The location of the study area around the Upper Malletts Creek area in southwestern Ann Arbor.

Courtesy of Washtenaw County's Office of Water Resources

Residents of southwest Ann Arbor neighborhoods will have the opportunity to share flooding issues they may have with the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Evan Pratt and a team studying solutions.

There will be a public meeting from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Lawton Elementary School’s cafeteria at 2250 South 7th St. in Ann Arbor.

The city of Ann Arbor directed Pratt and his team to conduct a study of flooding issues in the area with the Upper Malletts Creek drain and come up with possible solutions for the watershed area bounded by Ann Arbor-Saline Road, Interstate 94 and Scio Church Road.

Much of that portion of Malletts Creek is in underground pipes carrying storm water runoff from urban areas of Ann Arbor. About 37 percent of the watershed area to the drain is impervious surfaces.

During the storm associated with the Dexter tornado in 2012, the deluge of rain overwhelmed the rain system in southwest Ann Arbor. The closest rain gauges to the neighborhood recorded rainfall of 1.5 inches in half an hour, and 1.9 inches in 70 minutes, Pratt said.

Water could not get off the street and so it flooded the yards -- especially in the area by Scio Church Road west of I-94.

The water started flooding on the surface during the heavy rain event a year ago, and traveled from Wilkshire Court to Mershon Drive to Delware through the streets and people’s backyards.

Pratt said part of the intent of the study is to determine if all of the storm water pipes were at capacity during the storm, or if there are areas where water was not able to drain into a pipe.

“Our goal is to reduce the probability of flooding if this type of event is going to happen again,” Pratt said.

The project is a partnership between the city and the county. Spicer Group was hired by the city to do the consulting work for the project on a contract of up to $200,000. Pratt was an employee of Spicer Group until his election in November to the post of Water Resources Commissioner.

Pratt said his input was removed from a portion of the bidding process to make it fair - however the review team selected Spicer Group as the top choice.

The county’s water resources office is involved in the project because Malletts Creek is a county drain under its jurisdiction.

Over the course of this year Pratt and his team will be soliciting public input to help develop a suite of solutions by February of 2014.

Each complaint or concern about flooding issues will be put on a map. Pictures and videos also are helpful in determining how flooding happened during the storm and will help engineers find solutions, Pratt said.

Though neighborhoods in southwest Ann Arbor historically have had concerns of sewage backing up into basements from footing drains, a recent program to install sump pumps with special valves by the city has alleviated some of those problems, Pratt said.

Many of the homes in those neighborhoods had drains underneath the house to remove water that could collect there. Those drains were connected to Ann Arbor’s sanitary sewer system in the 1980s, Pratt said.

The southwest corner of Ann Arbor is lower than the rest of the city, and has mostly clay soils, Pratt said. The ground water level is fairly high, Pratt said.

Old aerial maps of Ann Arbor show the corner was interlaced with creeks before it was developed into subdivisions, Pratt said.

“We hope people can look past what’s the reason for the problem and to the solutions,” Pratt said.

A volunteer committee of nine residents also has been created to help guide the study.

Information and updates on the study are online at a website created for the project.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.

Comments

Maize and Blue Water Restoration

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 12:45 a.m.

Eisenhower at Main street was so flooded that car's couldn't even get through. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2-BD9s6ITE

Jack Eaton

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

The Lawton neighborhoods have had significant flood water problems for decades. In 1997, the City hired a consultant to study the storm water problems in that area. The consultant released what is now referred to as the Black & Veatch report. The report recommended infrastructure improvements that would have cost about $70 million, at that time. The City apparently found that price to be too high and did not make the significant improvements recommended by the consultants. A separate problem arose when storm water entering the City's waste water system through footing drains caused our waste water system to exceed capacity. In order to alleviate the overburdened waste water system, the City began to require home owners to disconnect home footing drains from the waste water system. That process includes installation of sump pumps in the basement of each house. Trying to divert storm water from footing drains into the already overburdened storm water system increased the problem of basement flooding in this area. After the 1997 Black & Veatch study, the City continued to allow development in the surrounding area. The displacement of water from new developments combined with the increasingly severe weather events we are experiencing has caused both additional surface flooding and basement flooding. The footing drain disconnect program did not help alleviate any problem related to storm water flooding. Opening basement floors to instal sump pumps has created easy access for water around a house's foundation to get into the previously dry basement. I hope that the current study addresses the need for improved storm water infrastructure. I can only imagine how much more costly the remedies will be now that 15 years have passed since the City decided not to afford the $70 million fix.

Sam S Smith

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

Just curious but why such the short notice?

Usual Suspect

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 1:54 a.m.

All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you've had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it's far too late to start making a fuss about it now. What do you mean you've never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heavens sake mankind, it's only four light years away, you know. I'm sorry, but if you can't be bothered to take an interest in local affairs that's your own lookout.

foobar417

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 11:07 p.m.

It's been on the city website for 2 months, at least. You can subscribe to various notifications, including monthly updates from the city about what's new and going on.

Jack Eaton

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

I live in the northern part of the identified area and I received a post card last week announcing this meeting. I believe anyone who attended previous meetings on the subject or who signed up on line also received an email invitation. I cannot explain why the dotcom waited until today to announce this meeting. Perhaps they are not on the City's mailing list.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

This simply isn't true. The footing drain disconnects are making the problem WORSE: "Though neighborhoods in southwest Ann Arbor historically have had concerns of sewage backing up into basements from footing drains, a recent program to install sump pumps with special valves by the city has alleviated some of those problems, Pratt said." That's why there is a task force to study the issue. If Mr. Pratt is showing his bias and protecting his own errors in mismanging then he needs to wait for that process to take place before he makes such claims.. If this continues, the City needs to remove him from the process. Funny how this process works too: "The project is a partnership between the city and the county. Spicer Group was hired by the city to do the consulting work for the project on a contract of up to $200,000. Pratt was an employee of Spicer Group until his election in November to the post of Water Resources Commissioner."