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High water levels cause damage in local cities

ESCANABA — With record-breaking water levels seen on Lake Michigan this spring, local officials spoke about how the situation has affected their communities.

According to the Army Corp of Engineers, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron broke their water records in April. The new records for these lakes were 13.4 inches higher than last spring’s water level and nearly three inches higher than a record set in 1986.

Patrick Jordan, Escanaba’s city manager, said the city has been fortunate enough that water levels have not had a serious impact locally.

“The main problem that we’re seeing from the high water is that, when the water’s high, it also pushes the groundwater up quite a ways inland,” he said.

This has created issues for the city’s wastewater collection system — issues which Jordan said are being exacerbated by the use of sump pumps.

The city has also been affected by high water levels in other ways.

“We have some damage done to our (municipal) dock,” Jordan said.

He said sinkholes along the edge of the dock wall have caved in, and waves have been coming over the wall. As a result, concrete there has been removed and fill dirt has been put in.

Additionally, the approach on Escanaba’s L dock is once again underwater, as was the case in 2019.

“The L dock is going to be closed this year, by the looks of it,” Jordan said.

Gladstone City Manager Eric Buckman said Gladstone has also been experiencing some issues related to high water levels on the lake. According to Buckman, the city is being affected by these water levels to an extent not seen since 1986.

“The main place that it’s impacting right now would be the harbor,” he said.

The mouth of the city’s municipal harbor, including some nearby sidewalks, is currently underwater.

“Right now, the rec department is building … docks to set over the concrete so that it’s above the water,” Buckman said.

A baseball diamond near the harbor is close to being flooded, as well.

“We won’t be able to use that field this year,” Buckman said.

As was the case in Escanaba, Buckman said wastewater collection in Gladstone has been impacted by the situation.

“Of course, it affects our wastewater plant and our storm water collection,” he said.

Recently, the city of Gladstone did an infiltration and inflow study with its engineering firm. Based on the study’s findings, the city plans to replace sections of its sewers where inflow is particularly bad.

Buckman said he expects issues related to high water levels on Lake Michigan to get worse before they get better.

“It’s supposed to go up a few more inches … it usually turns around in August and starts dropping,” he said of the lake’s water level.

If water levels rise by a few more inches, inflow will continue to increase.

“I know the private property owners … are putting more stone in to protect,” Buckman said, noting the city will also be putting more stone in at the mouth of the harbor to protect its fishing pier.

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