Close to 'crisis mode' — Here's how much infrastructure improvements could cost

Posted at 2:51 PM, Jun 30, 2021

(WXYZ) — The massive cleanup continues from metro Detroit’s historic flooding, and the price will likely be in the millions, if not billions of dollars.

“I got here, there was about 6 inches of water in the basement, drums are floating, my moms paper towels, all her storage stuff floating around. Water heaters out. Powers out. Absolute nightmare,” said Steve Hrnjak, a resident of Dearborn.

It's a nightmare felt by thousands across metro Detroit following the recent round of storms.

As of Tuesday, there were 14,000 requests for flood damage assistance in the city of Detroit alone.

The damage is wide spread from Ann Arbor to Bloomfield to Dearborn, Grosse Pointe, Detroit, the list goes on.

"We have never seen this kind of rain volume in our area in this short period of time,” said Mayor Mike Duggan.

The torrential downpours, may start to become more common.

“What you would call a 100-year event of 5 inches of rain, our climate models are now projecting that 5 inches by 2050 could be anywhere from 5 inches to 14 inches of rain,” said Amy O'Leary, executive director of SEMCOG.

Congress and the White House are in negotiations over an infrastructure deal to address our aged systems that couldn’t handle 5 plus inches, but Governor Whitmer says federal investment only is not enough.

"I’m glad that President Biden is working to get an infrastructure package done because this is not unique to Michigan, but our job is to deliver for the people of Michigan,” said Gov. Whitmer.

So what is enough?

The Whitmer administration has proposed $238 million for stormwater upgrades as part of her 500 million Clean Water Plan, none of which is included in a budget passed by the House and waiting for Senate approval.

Courtesy Governor Whitmer's Office

That amount however would fall short of a 2016 study under former Governor Rick Snyder, who estimated Michigan faces an $800 million per year gap in funding for water and infrastructure.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments estimates the infrastructure deficit to be far greater in a study that inventoried and graded all of the pipes in Southeast Michigan.

"About 30 percent of those pipes are in poor condition and need investment to fix them. And that’s at the price tag of 3.4 billion dollars per year for all three systems or a billion dollars a year for the storm system,” said O'Leary.

“Where’s that money going to come from? That’s the question. We all pay our taxes. I know I do. I expect a little more,” said Hrnjak.

But after years of underinvestment, can more happen? Can a Democrat governor and a Republican legislature prioritize infrastructure and find compromise?

“I think there’s no choice. We need to. We are getting very close to crisis mode with our infrastructure between the amounts and duration and frequency of rain events but also just our crumbling roads and bridges. And it’s all coming to a head at the same time,” said O'Leary.

Thursday is the budget deadline for the governor and the legislature to come to some sort of agreement. We will see if this recent flooding disaster changes any calculations.