Saugatuck Twp. seeks fix after storms, erosion

SAUGATUCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Leaders in Saugatuck Township say flooding and erosion are starting to impact city infrastructure.

High lake levels and fall storms over the past few months have pushed water into parking lots, businesses and have washed out roads like Lake Shore Drive.

“This erosion has caused segments of the bluff to wash away and that’s putting portions of the road at risk,” Saugatuck Township Manager Griffin Graham said.

Only about eight feet of land stands between the edge of the bluff and the roadway. Currently, the road has a steep drop-off and goes directly to the shoreline. The Allegan County Road Commission officially closed off the area last week after a sinkhole started forming. Some homeowners now have limited access to their property.

One of the sinkholes developing in Saugatuck after storms and flooding. (Dec. 4, 2019)

“I think all of our area partners are just trying to prioritize safety as we figure out what we can both in the short and long-term,” Graham said.

The flooding is also impacting the neighboring city of Saugatuck, where several downtown businesses have experienced floods. One of the places is The Butler restaurant. 

Owners Scott and Vicki Phelps said during the last storm, their restaurants basement flooded for the first time since 1986. They spent several hours putting sandbags out to stop it from happening again.

Sandbags outside of a business in Saugatuck Township to prevent flooding. (Dec. 4, 2019)

“We’ve got to try and get some preventative measures in place in order to stop it and do what we can, but you can’t stop water — it’s going to rise,” Vicki Phelps said.

Saugatuck Township says they’ve been working with neighboring cities and agencies to come up with a long-term solution.

“We can’t control the weather, we can’t control mother nature, we can’t control the lake and as these cycles occur — are we able to keep this a priority to try to find a longer-term solution? Or are we going to keep doing Band-Aid fixes?” Graham asked. 

Graham went on to say while the temporary fixes work, the township is considering options that will work long-term, like rerouting roads. They’re also looking into potential state and federal relief funding that would be available as the issue progresses.

“This situation is changing daily and because of that we want to try to be realistic about what potential responses are,” Graham said.

Township leaders say they plan to continue talking about the issue during upcoming meetings and encourage community members to be a part of the conversation.