Hammoud, Tlaib outline plans
By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, with input from U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-13th District) updated residents on flood mitigation efforts and funding during a March 10 neighborhood meeting at Whitmore-Bolles Elementary School.
Hammoud said three projects and a request for proposal are underway.
He said one project that has already been brought to the City Council is to insert flap valves within one of the sewer lines being dug in the east side of Dearborn, west of Chase Road.
“That should help prevent flooding – or mitigate some potential flooding – for about 3,200 homes,” Hammoud said.
He said another project the city is pursuing is to work with contractors who are excavating for sewer lines so they may provide an opportunity for residents to get discounted backflow preventers.
“Rather than pay $4,000 for a backflow preventer, you are going to be getting it for about $1,000,” Hammoud said. “To get it installed in your house will help prevent flooding.”
He said that while those two projects are safety measures, they won’t prevent all of the issues.
Hammoud said the third item, an RFP, is for a study of the water and sewage system to identify what actually happened last summer, and what the city can do to prevent it from happening again.
He said his administration fine-tuned the request, which was initiated during the previous administration, and it is currently out for bid.
“We are seeking vendors who are willing to conduct this study for us,” Hammoud said. “It is about a $2 million study, it will take some time, but what we are hoping to get from it is solutions to help prevent future flooding in the city of Dearborn.”
Hammoud said city officials met recently with a non-profit agency that said it has a fund which can provide up to $2,000 per low-income household for water and sewage-related issues, and they said it could be used to install backflow preventers.
The mayor said there will be short- and long-term solutions to the flooding, and that some of the short-term solutions were already in the pipeline and are being fast-tracked.
Hammoud said that in the long term, they hope the study will identify meaningful ways to reduce the potential of flooding, which he said is why he is advocating for more green space, eliminating paved areas where possible and revisiting some of the city’s parking lot ordinances, because pavement prevents the absorption of rainwater.
He said the city submitted a $9 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant application for another flap valve, which could be inserted in another section of Dearborn to help prevent flooding.
Hammoud said City Engineer M. Yunis Patel is retiring at the end of the month, so the city will hire a new city engineer, and is hoping to hire someone with a strong focus in green infrastructure.
“We know that is going to be the pathway to mitigating flooding in the future,” he said.
Hammoud said in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, she has proposed updating all of the underpass pump stations on state roads.
He said she also is negotiating a budget focused on water and sewage infrastructure.
“We are having conversations with our legislative partners to construct mini-grant programs that are open to municipalities to help mitigate flooding,” he said. “Dearborn is one of the last downstream communities, so if some of our upstream communities captured more water than they dump out, that would also provide us with a greater ability to mitigate future flooding.”
Hammoud said he is working with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) to get more areas of Dearborn recognized as a floodplain, so residents could purchase flood insurance.
He said the Ecorse Creek, which passes through Dearborn Heights, puts part of Dearborn in a flood plain, and said Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi is working to get funding to remove the jams in the Ecorse Creek, in cooperation with Wayne County.
Tlaib said Wayne County budgets only $30,000 for Ecorse Creek maintenance when it needs $10 million worth of work.
She said Ecorse Creek is the No. 1 concern among her Dearborn Heights constituents, and the impact of rising water and climate change are worsened by the lack of creek maintenance.
Tlaib said two studies show that the flood mapping that the federal government has done is inaccurate.
“I just got $1.6 million for Ecorse Creek, but it is not enough,” she said.
Tlaib said Bazzi, an engineer, has researched all of the infrastructure grants for which Dearborn Height is eligible to apply.
“That is what I need my mayors to do,” she said. “Ecorse Creek does not only affect Dearborn Heights, but nine communities in Wayne County.”
Hammoud said Dearborn officials will continue to have conversations with other cities, the county, state and federal agencies to determine what can be done to mitigate flooding.
“A problem that has been created over 30 years is not going to be resolved overnight,” he said. “The reality is we’ve underfunded improving our water and sewage infrastructure just as badly, if not worse, than improving our road infrastructure.”
Hammoud said the city will continue to aggressively pursue every grant it can.
He said flooding has impacted nearly two-thirds of the houses in the city.
“It is an issue that has been top of mind and we have been working on it since day one,” he said. “The reality is, we have had five ‘hundred-year storms’ in the last seven years, and so climate change is real, and the climate is a factor, and our infrastructure has not been built to suit, and so we have to make adjustments.”
Hammoud said the city has to start from scratch to find a solution to help prevent flooding.
“Let’s do this study, let’s see what dollars are available and let’s see what we can do to help residents,” he said.
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