By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Following the late June flooding, the City Council, both current and future, will be looking at the cause of the street and basement flooding, possible fixes and sources of funding.
With 18 residents seeking a seat on the city council, proposed approaches are as varied as the candidates themselves.
Of those running, 14 responded by sharing what they think needs to be done to alleviate future flooding, and how such solutions could be funded.
Four of the candidates, incumbent Michael Sareini, and challengers Ziad Abdulmalik, Saeid Mashgari Alawathy and Samraa Luqman, did not respond.
In their own words, each city council candidate explains their approach to understanding, solving and funding a flooding solution.
Federal, state, regional, county, and local city funding will be required to upgrade the capacity of the Dearborn storm and rain sewer system to significantly decrease the risk of flooding long-term.
This is a regional Rouge River problem, caused by changes in climate and rain patterns, increased lot coverage, decreased green space, and the buildout of outlying communities, which increase the discharge of stormwater into the Rouge River.
Each upstream community must collect and retain more stormwater to reduce the frequency of downstream flooding. The Army Corps of Engineers must take the lead to develop a regional solution that will be jointly funded by all of the stakeholders, including the Great Lakes Water Authority.
Moreover, the city of Dearborn sewer system must continue to be upgraded, maintained, and optimized to perform at the highest possible level.
In addition, DTE must provide power supplies to keep the system running and avoid outages. Wayne County must provide backup power supply generators to keep the sewer system pumps running to avoid dangerous road flooding and related hazards.
The Dearborn 911 responders cannot be compromised by rainfall that risks residents’ health and possible death.
Catastrophic climate change is a threat to our safety, and extreme weather events are becoming the norm. We must reassess whether Dearborn is built to withstand a changing climate, and make long overdue investments in infrastructure.
That includes protecting and expanding green space in the east side and south end, to ensure the adequate discharge and collection of storm water, using permeable pavement in road projects, eliminating onsite parking requirements, and providing tax credits to residents who replace grass lawns with rain gardens.
We must also develop a natural disaster response plan that ensures that basements are cleared of sewage and contaminated waste immediately, the expeditious removal of debris from streets, and emergency housing for those who lose their homes.
I also support the creation of a disaster relief fund to provide a stopgap for residents awaiting FEMA relief.
These projects can be funded by a combination of state and federal grants and cost savings rendered by a shift from Dearborn’s one-of-a-kind minimum staffing requirement for police and fire to demand-based staffing.
I would also introduce a resolution for Dearborn to join 1,000 plus communities in recognizing the climate crisis, and committing to a carbon neutral city government to help the global fight against climate change.
While on council, I would work with the necessary city departments to assess our overall infrastructural needs and identify the most pressing areas of concern.
I would also look into the allocation of American Rescue Plan dollars, and assess what this funding should be applied towards, taking into account resident and community feedback.
I will work hand in hand with the administration and my colleagues on council to find a plan that works for Dearborn.
My approach to the recent flooding would be twofold: Federal grants, and temporary reallocation of city funding to correct this issue.
In light of this disaster, I’ve learned that the sewage and water pump system in the city of Dearborn was never built to withstand such a large amount of rain, but only three inches every 24 hours. Furthermore, many of the homes in Dearborn are not built to handle such disasters.
My twofold approach would begin with putting together a team to seek and apply for federal funding. The federal funds would be used by the city to put together a team of civil engineers that specialize in sewage and water infrastructure. From there, we would develop a game plan to equip our current system to be able to withstand such rainfall.
The second part of my approach deals with the current city budget and funds. I would ask for a temporary allocation of funds to be put towards surveying the various homes and businesses all over Dearborn and determining which of these properties are most susceptible to flooding. Once all the information is gathered, a backflow system should be provided by the city to these homes that would be available for a small or discounted cost.
In addition, I would work towards developing protocols and procedures to identify future disasters before they happen, and to improve methods for communicating warnings to our residents.
Flooding in Dearborn is a serious issue that has impacted the lives of thousands of our residents and it must be addressed to keep people safe and healthy.
Climate change is real, and is causing massive rains in Dearborn and other parts of the world. To mitigate water damage to homes and the city as a whole, Dearborn must invest in permeable parking lots, large rain gardens and water catchment systems. The more surface area we have to absorb rainwater and prevent it from going into people’s homes and businesses, the better off we will all be.
Dearborn’s infrastructure on the east end is 100 years old, and must be upgraded and expanded. We need additional outlets for water, and Dearborn must work with the federal government to obtain funding from the forthcoming Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework plan.
County roads, specifically Greenfield and Rotunda, have seen flooding under viaducts, and securing funding from the county will be key.
Lastly, Dearborn can consider the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds for infrastructure and seek creative uses for the federal dollars we are set to receive.
Flooding must be addressed using a multi-pronged approach, with support and funding from every level of government.
I work for a local insurance company, and have experienced all major water back-ups that have happened since 2014.
I am heartbroken each time I speak with a client who experiences damage to their home. Basements are used as additional living space, and are a common place of peace for families.
Dearborn has now experienced three catastrophic events with water in residents’ homes. We must focus on funding resources and involve the most up to date specialists who can provide solutions for our system failures.
It will not just be one body of government: Dearborn will need to work with county, state, and federal officials to obtain proper funding, and may need partnerships between cities to share the cost of this large project.
Together, with all parties, the residents must seek solutions from our government. As of today, I don’t think anyone can say “this is the solution,” but whoever is elected to council and mayor must make this a priority to find and execute.
As residents of Dearborn, we deserve that, and if we do not fix the infrastructure for our community, I strongly believe we will lose residents.
In order to fix anything, you first must know what needs to be fixed. We need to know how our system is broken and what is not working.
There needs to be an independent investigation of what is failing and how it can be corrected. Once this report is complete, we can plan how it can be corrected and how much we would need to get it corrected.
Funding can come from different areas: Federal, state and county, and we must work with our federal resources to ease up on the regulations preventing us from having a more efficient system.
We should also be working both ends of the issue. Let’s try to prevent flooding by fixing our system, so we’re prepared if a rain event does happen.
We need to educate our residents about what they should do in their homes if flooding does happen, and what insurance coverage is recommended.
Many residents had the understanding that after the flood in 2014 that the CSO project was to correct this flooding issue; however, they now know it was not.
If elected, I would work with the administration to help devise a plan to improve our city infrastructure, and would work with our partners at the county, state, and federal level to help earmark additional funding for Dearborn, while seeking out resident input to assess which infrastructural needs should be prioritized.
Moreover, I will work with my colleagues to assess further action following the results of the independent investigation of the most recent flooding to help residents get relief.
Unfortunately, if it rains that much in a short period of time, our infrastructure just can’t handle that much water.
There is a problem, and it’s going to take local, county, state and the federal government getting involved with funding to fix our infrastructure.
The flooding in 2014 and 2021 have caused much destruction and heartache in Dearborn. If we don’t find a solution, sadly, this will happen again when we get that much rain.
If we can spend trillions on infrastructure investment in other countries, I’m pretty sure we can fix our infrastructure issues.
Our residents suffered from a massive flood back in 2014. In fact, a lot of them have not yet recovered. Just seven years later, our city experiences another devastating flood, and this is not acceptable in any way, shape or form.
If elected, I pledge to push for an independent investigation and a well-thought-out evaluation of our system. It is very crucial to act upon recent changes to our infrastructure and sewer system pumps, as well as keep up with global warming.
Our residents pay some of the highest taxes in the state, therefore, it is not fair at all to dig deep into their pockets. I pledge to work diligently with our county, state and federal partners to provide funding and other resources.
This cannot be resolved overnight, but I promise that I will not miss one opportunity to be the people’s voice and fight for their best interests.
As an engineer at Ford Motor Co. for nearly a decade, I have experience managing multi-million-dollar projects on a tight timeline, and I plan to bring that expertise to the city council.
I will push for data-driven best practices for city management of any crisis, including our broken infrastructure. We need an independent assessment of what happened, done by professionals without any bias.
We need to set requirements for a system that is not only robust by current standards, but by the expectations of our future climate, and we must ensure money spent on our next system is not a temporary fix.
As we build a new system, we will have the opportunity to re-shape the landscape of our city, and I plan to secure grants from the state and federal government to help pay for these kinds of improvements.
We should also take the opportunity to improve our water delivery and electrical infrastructure, to ensure clean water and reliable distribution of electricity as we transition to new modes of transportation.
Businesses will recognize our proactive steps as well, and I am sure expanding our infrastructure will also mean an expansion of our tax base to help alleviate costs.
We must acknowledge that, due to climate change, heavy rain events are increasing, and communities and property owners must use new approaches to manage watersheds and protect property.
To alleviate future flooding, as a Dearborn City Council member, I have already supported contracting outside experts to evaluate the effectiveness of Dearborn’s sewer system and make recommendations for solutions to minimize flooding.
I have started pressuring county, state and federal representatives to prioritize spending on city and regional infrastructure, and I have joined a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments committee working on regional measures to protect residents from flooding.
My next steps are to work with MDOT and the Great Lakes Water Authority to identify pump upgrades and repairs needed to keep streets and freeways open and free of flooding in extreme rain situations.
I also plan to seek hazard mitigation assistance grants to help residents and businesses pay for flood prevention equipment, including backflow preventers, sump pumps, French drains and rain gardens, to move water away from homes, and to aid absorption, rather than pushing water into sewers.
I favor providing incentives for residents and businesses to protect and expand green space, and to plant more trees to aid water absorption.
I am also exploring participation in the National Flood Insurance Program, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to make flood insurance available to property owners.
Throughout my career, I have worked as a Disaster Recovery Lead for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
If we take a step back and evaluate how the city responded to the flood disaster, the disaster recovery plan was poorly executed, if there was one, which indicates a complete lack of governance and accountability.
The city knew about the rain ahead of time and failed to sound the sirens, send texts and leveraging social media to alert residents. If the city truly has a solid and complete disaster recovery plan, we shouldn’t struggle to find contractors to pick up debris a few days after the incident happened, as it would be part of the disaster recovery plan.
If elected to the city council, my top priority would be to ensure complete governance over the whole process when it comes to responding to disaster scenarios. It is essential for the council to review the plan in detail and ensure that a responsible and accountable person is assigned to each task.
I envision that the plan will include prioritizing services to the most vulnerable in the senior community, with detailed and clear responsibilities from each team, expectations for third party suppliers and service providers, and a communication plan to reach all residents.
I would push for a complete and independent investigation and evaluation, following industry best practices, to evaluate the root cause analysis process that starts with identifying the problem, and leads to gathering as much data as possible to determine what happened and why such failure occurred.
There are many county and state resources available for the funding needed for infrastructure investments. Starting with the city of Dearborn, there is $48.7 million available through the American Rescue Plan that can be leveraged specifically for infrastructure assessment.
Officials need to better inform residents how to mitigate losses when sustained, heavy rains are expected, and emergency plans need to be readily available, with cross-trained management, employees and volunteers.
An early warning system and other media could be used at the onset of flooding to better alert residents to take proactive measures to protect their property.
The failure of pump stations, the power grid and aging regional infrastructure contributed to the recent flooding. The city council has a July 27 meeting to discuss a request for proposal to investigate the flooding.
Recently received American Rescue Plan Act funds may be used for the council’s evaluation of the infrastructure problem. However, we can’t propose to fund future infrastructure without first knowing the extent of the problem. We need an independent investigation.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and the Army Corps of Engineers should be called upon to investigate the cause, and determine how to minimize reoccurring, large-scale flooding events.
Because utilities failed, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Public Service Commission can be asked to investigate.
Funding may become available from the American Rescue Plan Act and the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. Community Development Block Grants may also be used to recover from the declared disaster.