Flood Response & Sewer Improvements

Flooding of the Tittabawassee River at the Tridge


Background of the 2017 Storm & Sanitary Sewer Study

During the flooding event on June 22-23, 2017 - which saw the second-highest recorded crest of the Tittabawassee River - thousands of residents within the City of Midland were impacted by surface flooding, flash flooding, and basement sewer back-ups. Although both the sanitary and storm sewer systems performed as designed during this event, they were inundated with water. Residents asked: Could this be prevented or mitigated in the future? The City decided to seek outside help to answer that question.

On October 16, 2017, Midland City Council approved a study of the City’s sanitary and storm sewer system to be conducted by a joint venture of engineering firms Hubbell, Roth & Clark (HRC) and OHM Advisors. HRC tackled the sanitary sewer study, while OHM conducted research on the City’s storm sewer infrastructure.

Final drafts of the 2017 Midland Sanitary & Storm Sewer Study were made available to the public on June 11, 2018, with the finalized report presented to City Council on Monday, September 10, 2018. You can access both documents and the executive summary, as well as supplementary materials below.

 Click to read Volume I: Executive Summary

 Click to read Volume II: Storm Sewer Study    


 Click to read Volume III: Sanitary Sewer Study    


In October 2018, City staff presented a series of recommendations for action based upon the consultants’ study findings, community feedback from the public input sessions, and additional field research and monitoring throughout the city. All of these recommendations do not require an increase in funding for either the storm or sanitary sewer system.

Watch the video below (beginning at the 1:48:00 mark) to view the full presentation of these updates. A copy of the presentation is also available by clicking the button below the video.

 Click to view the full recommendations presentation (PDF)    


Ongoing Flood & Sewer Study Response 

Since the sewer study was completed in 2018, City staff and contractors have made progress on the consultants' many recommendations. All recommendations will take years to implement, but you can find a list below of items completed to date.

Priority items have also been implemented into the City’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for 2020-2026 to document and collaborate sewer system projects with other capital improvements, such as street reconstruction and water main replacements, to make these improvements as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible.
Click here to read the 2020-2026 Capital Improvement Plan.

This section last update January 12, 2021.

Updates on Phase II Projects, Recommendations to City Council: December 21, 2020



At its December 21, 2020 City Council meeting, City Wastewater General Supervisor Bruce Royce; study consultants from Hubbel, Roth & Clark; and experts from Moore+Bruggink and Primodal provided updates on the City's progress on both storm and sanitary sewer projects, as well as recommendations for how to proceed into Phase II of the study. This presentation was given as a 'receive & file' opportunity for Council to hear the information, but not to take any action at this time. In total, over $30.5 million in improvements to the City's sanitary system were recommended. (Storm water improvements are faced with several challenges, which are outlined below.)

The presentation spanned over 2 hours and contains very detailed information about current progress and future recommendations, so we highly recommend watching the meeting for yourself via the video above. (Conversation begins at the 48:45 mark.) You can also download the presentations via the links below.


Updates on progress on the study's recommendations:

  • Asset characterization program (video and sonar mapping from RedZone Robotics) has been completed in all Priority 1 areas. Seventy-five (75) percent of the data has been coded, with all data expected to be completed by March 2021.This applies to both the storm and sanitary sewer systems.
  • Ongoing yearly culvert inspections and open ditch cleaning in areas with City jurisdiction.
  • Installation of rainfall and river gauges throughout the Tittabawassee River watershed to assist in data collection, particularly given the absence of upstream dam system after May 2020 flooding event.
  • Aerial drone surveys with assistance from Midland County Drain Commissioner to identify and perform open ditch clearing in blocked areas
  • Land property surveys along Sturgeon Creek from Wackerly Street to Saginaw Road to determine property rights and jurisdictions for public vs. private and City vs. County vs. State responsibility for maintenance
  • Installation of flow meters in all Priority 1 areas have been completed to monitor flow data in the sanitary sewer system and will be used to update the model for predicting system performance. Flow monitoring will begin in Priority 2 areas this year, but will need time to gather significant amounts of data.
  • Sanitary sewer pipe lining and manhole rehabilitation/replacement projects in needed areas anticipated to begin in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Key Takeaways and Recommendations from Staff:


Floodplain 100 year map

1) Regardless of any current or future improvements to the storm sewer infrastructure, homes located within or adjacent to the 100-year floodplain in Midland will experience some level of basement flooding, flooding, or other water issues due to the fact that they are located within a floodplain. (Map of the 100-year floodplain is above)

2) All large-scale storm water improvements should be postponed until more information is collected on the Tittabawassee River's behavior without an upstream dam system. Decisions requiring large capital outlays should also be postponed until the future of the upstream dam system is solidified.

3) Initiate a Chapter 8 petition to the Midland County Drain Commissioner to arrange, fund, and assess properties for improvements to be made in open ditches and waterways that require clearing or maintenance. (Not applicable to Sturgeon Creek.)

Water Jurisdiction map showing property rights for Sturgeon Creek Opens in new window

4) Restrict activities and expenditures on Sturgeon Creek to those only on lands under public control or ownership. Private property owners are responsible for maintenance on their own properties. A map of property jurisdiction along the Sturgeon Creek is located above. (Click the image for a larger version.)

5) Remain in contact with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, & Energy (EGLE), Midland County, and the Four Lakes Task Force to ensure that the City's concerns are heard and considered throughout the upstream dam replacement conversation.

A map outlining all areas where inflow and infiltration has been found in the sewer systems

6) Continue to update sewer projects to align with City's Capital Improvement Plan using the new flow monitoring data and asset characterization information. An additional $11 million in inflow & infiltration (I&I) has been identified through RedZone Robotics' research beyond the initial $3 million in Priority 1 areas. (A map of the I&I sources found in the City's sewer systems are displayed in the graphic above.) It is recommended that these areas be fixed as soon as possible to avoid sending clean water into the sanitary sewer system.

7) Focus on Priority 2 improvement areas for sanitary sewer once it's determined how improvements in Priority 1 areas are working.

Overall funding of $30.5 million for funding of the sanitary sewer improvements


8) Pursue "Concept 5" as suggested by consultants to improve the sanitary sewer system, which includes a pilot footing drain disconnection (FDD) program  in the Whitewood and Moorland pumping districts, along with infiltration and inflow prevention via pipe lining and pipe rehabilitation or replacement and manhole rehabilitation or replacement. This is anticipated to return the sanitary sewer system to a 25-year, 24-hour level of service for rain events in the Priority 1 areas, has the lowest legacy costs, and is the easiest to implement for the City in the long term. (A graphic breaking down these costs is shown above)

Current Challenges Faced:

  • Homes located within or adjacent to the 100-year floodplain will see some level of flooding and water issues regardless of any proactive measures taken as they are within a floodplain
  • The absence of a dam system north of Midland has led the Tittabawassee River to behave in new ways during wet weather events, making its impact on our sewer systems and flooding concerns more difficult to predict
  • Insufficient budget and staffing levels to properly and efficiently maintain all open ditch clearing requests received by Wastewater staff
  • Sturgeon Creek is a Water of the State under State of Michigan jurisdiction, preventing the City or County from performing any activities on the waterway unless on property it owns or controls. The City must apply and pay for a permit ($500+) each time it performs maintenance on its properties.
  • The City has very little jurisdiction over much of the Tittabawassee River system, including the upstream dam system.
  • Budgeting for additional sewer improvements is insufficient to pursue staff-recommended options. (Current budget is $750,000) Additional funding sources must be found before projects can be initiated.
  • If Council desires a higher level of service from the sanitary sewer system beyond 25-year, 24-hour levels in Priority 1 areas, additional expenditures and studies would be necessary to determine what would be needed. EGLE currently requires the elimination of I&I from a system before permitting increases in level of service.
  • Current Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) does not include the proposed sanitary and storm sewer recommendations, but the plan is largely ready for presentation. Adding these projects to the CIP would drastically change the document.

Frequently Asked Questions

Following the June 2017 event, residents had questions about the state of our storm and sanitary sewer systems, the causes of flooding in Midland, and other topics. We’ve assembled a list of the most frequently asked questions below.

Flood Response Updates: Year-by-Year Activities

For a full timeline of activities related to the Sanitary & Storm Sewer Study, please use the tabs in the container below to navigate by year. Each tab lists activities in chronological order.

  1. 2020
  2. 2019
  3. 2018

2020

Note: Due to executive orders and restrictions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the May 2020 flooding event, much of the City's planned sewer study work for 2020 was severely delayed or limited.

See the "May 2020 - Historic Flooding & Dam Failure" section below for specific information related to the 2020 flooding event. 

January 2020 - City Council Considers Millage Increase to Fund Flood Response

At its annual planning retreat on January 4, 2020, the Midland City Council gave City staff a budgeting directive to allocate additional funding to ongoing flood response and post-study work suggested in the Sanitary & Storm Sewer Study. This funding would come from a temporary 0.5 mill increase to the City’s millage rate, with funds put into the Stormwater Fund and utilized only for flood response activities.  Watch the video above from the January 13, 2020 City Council meeting for a summary of this directive from City Manager Brad Kaye (beginning at the 45:20 mark).

May 2020 - 2020-21 City Budget Reviewed, Approved with Additional Sewer Funding


The City's 2020-21 City Budget saw public hearings at the April 26 and May 11 City Council meetings, with final adoption on May 18, 2020. In the budget, several allocations were made to provide additional financial support to the City's Wastewater Fund and Stormwater Management Fund to assist in flood mitigation efforts and improvements.

Changes to Stormwater Management Fund included:

  • General operating millage rate increased from .4239 mills in 2019/20 to .4602 mills for 2020/21.
  • General Fund support increased from $920,000 in 2019/20 to $1,020,000 in the 2020/21 adopted budget.
    • Note: The amount of General Fund support was increased after the 2019/20 budget adoption to add another $500,000 to the 2019/20 budget, increasing the amount transferred from the General Fund  to the Stormwater Management Fund from $920,000 to $1,420,000. 

In addition, to help fund the startup of capital projects related to flood mitigation activities and stabilize the Wastewater Fund, the following allocations were made: the 2020/21 General Fund adopted budget included a $500,000 transfer to the Wastewater Fund for flood mitigation costs from the Stormwater Management Fund.

Watch the "What's Up in the City!' recap of the budget process above for more information.View the 2020-2021 approved City Budget here.

May 2020 - Historic Flooding & Dam Failure in Midland Create Sewer Outages

A map shows red polygons where the City experienced sanitary sewer outages during the May 2020 flood

A significant multi-day rain event and the subsequent failure of the Edenville and Sanford dams in Midland County on May 19, 2020, led to extensive overland flooding throughout Midland and an historic river level of 34.88 feet. As a result, five of the City's sanitary sewer pump stations were overcome by flood waters and caused sewer service outages to residents in several areas of the community. Once flood waters receded and conditions stabilized, crews were able to repair and bring back online all pump stations that served residents within 72 hours.

Residents were notified of sewer outages via Nixle.com text message and email alerts; Facebook and Twitter updates on the City's social media channels; email alerts to the City's email news list; press releases posted on the City's website and sent to local media for distribution; and an emergency alert bar at the top of the City's website pages. GIS also created an interactive map - which can be viewed here - to show updates in real time.

Crews from Wastewater, Water Distribution, Public Services, and public safety organizations would spend weeks repairing infrastructure, cleaning debris, and recovering from the significant impact of this life-altering event.

July 2020 - Director of Wastewater Services Provides Update on Sewer Outages & Flood Response

Click here to download a copy of the presentation (PDF)

At the July 27, 2020 City Council meeting, Director of Wastewater Services Patrick Frazee provided Council with an update on the impact the May 2020 flooding had on the City's utilities, including a deep-dive into the sewer outages caused by five sanitary sewer pump stations' being overtaken by flood waters. Click the video above to watch his presentation (beginning at the 3:13:00 mark).


August 2020 - Midland Daily News Chronicles "The Fight to Save Midland's Infrastructure"

A screenshot of a news article that says "The fight to save Midland's infrastructure from floo Opens in new window

In August 2020, the Midland Daily News sat down with Director of Wastewater Services Patrick Frazee and other City staff to take a deep dive into the events and aftermath of the May 2020 dam failure and its impact on wastewater infrastructure. Click the image above to read the article.

September 2020 - RedZone Robotics Begins Final Sewer Inspections

An African American man in a yellow jacket looks into a sewer manhole with a white van

Wastewater asset management contractor RedZone Robotics resumed its video and sonar evaluation of the City's sewer systems after inspection work was temporarily suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and historic flooding in the Midland community. Inspection crews will continue to work in areas around the city until all infrastructure has been successfully mapped.

Click here to read a news release on the topic.

October 2020 - Midland Daily News Chronicles "New Normal" for River Levels

A screenshot of a Midland Daily News article showing a red bridge with measuring stick Opens in new window

In October, Director of Wastewater Services Patrick Frazee and Midland County Emergency Management Coordinator Jenifier Boyer sat down with the Midland Daily News to discuss the challenges the City and County of Midland face as we attempt to predict future flooding events without an active dam system in place on the Tittabawassee River. Without active dams restricting water flow in Sanford and Edenville, it's nearly impossible to predict how quickly river levels will rise - and where flood waters will go - during future flooding events. Click the image above to read the article.

December 2020 - Staff, Consultants Provide Phase II Recommendations, Progress Update at City Council


At its December 21, 2020 City Council meeting, City Wastewater General Supervisor Bruce Royce; study consultants from Hubbel, Roth & Clark; and experts from Moore+Bruggink and Primodal provided updates on the City's progress on both storm and sanitary sewer projects, as well as recommendations for how to proceed into Phase II of the study. This presentation was given as a 'receive & file' opportunity for Council to hear the information, but not to take any action at this time. In total, over $30.5 million in improvements to the City's sanitary system were recommended. (Storm water improvements are faced with several challenges, which are outlined below.)

The presentation spanned over 2 hours and contains very detailed information about current progress and future recommendations, so we highly recommend watching the meeting for yourself via the video above. (Conversation begins at the 48:45 mark.) You can also download the presentations via the links below.

Updates on progress on the study's recommendations:

  • Asset characterization program (video and sonar mapping from RedZone Robotics) has been completed in all Priority 1 areas. Seventy-five (75) percent of the data has been coded, with all data expected to be completed by March 2021.This applies to both the storm and sanitary sewer systems.
  • Ongoing yearly culvert inspections and open ditch cleaning in areas with City jurisdiction.
  • Installation of rainfall and river gauges throughout the Tittabawassee River watershed to assist in data collection, particularly given the absence of upstream dam system after May 2020 flooding event.
  • Aerial drone surveys with assistance from Midland County Drain Commissioner to identify and perform open ditch clearing in blocked areas
  • Land property surveys along Sturgeon Creek from Wackerly Street to Saginaw Road to determine property rights and jurisdictions for public vs. private and City vs. County vs. State responsibility for maintenance
  • Installation of flow meters in all Priority 1 areas have been completed to monitor flow data in the sanitary sewer system and will be used to update the model for predicting system performance. Flow monitoring will begin in Priority 2 areas this year, but will need time to gather significant amounts of data.
  • Sanitary sewer pipe lining and manhole rehabilitation/replacement projects in needed areas anticipated to begin in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Key Takeaways and Recommendations from Staff:


Floodplain 100 year map

1) Regardless of any current or future improvements to the storm sewer infrastructure, homes located within or adjacent to the 100-year floodplain in Midland will experience some level of basement flooding, flooding, or other water issues due to the fact that they are located within a floodplain. (Map of the 100-year floodplain is above)

2) All large-scale storm water improvements should be postponed until more information is collected on the Tittabawassee River's behavior without an upstream dam system. Decisions requiring large capital outlays should also be postponed until the future of the upstream dam system is solidified.

3) Initiate a Chapter 8 petition to the Midland County Drain Commissioner to arrange, fund, and assess properties for improvements to be made in open ditches and waterways that require clearing or maintenance. (Not applicable to Sturgeon Creek.)

Water Jurisdiction map showing property rights for Sturgeon Creek Opens in new window

4) Restrict activities and expenditures on Sturgeon Creek to those only on lands under public control or ownership. Private property owners are responsible for maintenance on their own properties. A map of property jurisdiction along the Sturgeon Creek is located above. (Click the image for a larger version.)

5) Remain in contact with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, & Energy (EGLE), Midland County, and the Four Lakes Task Force to ensure that the City's concerns are heard and considered throughout the upstream dam replacement conversation.

A map outlining all areas where inflow and infiltration has been found in the sewer systems

6) Continue to update sewer projects to align with City's Capital Improvement Plan using the new flow monitoring data and asset characterization information. An additional $11 million in inflow & infiltration (I&I) has been identified through RedZone Robotics' research beyond the initial $3 million in Priority 1 areas. (A map of the I&I sources found in the City's sewer systems are displayed in the graphic above.) It is recommended that these areas be fixed as soon as possible to avoid sending clean water into the sanitary sewer system.

7) Focus on Priority 2 improvement areas for sanitary sewer once it's determined how improvements in Priority 1 areas are working.

Overall funding of $30.5 million for funding of the sanitary sewer improvements


8) Pursue "Concept 5" as suggested by consultants to improve the sanitary sewer system, which includes a pilot footing drain disconnection (FDD) program  in the Whitewood and Moorland pumping districts, along with infiltration and inflow prevention via pipe lining and pipe rehabilitation or replacement and manhole rehabilitation or replacement. This is anticipated to return the sanitary sewer system to a 25-year, 24-hour level of service for rain events in the Priority 1 areas, has the lowest legacy costs, and is the easiest to implement for the City in the long term. (A graphic breaking down these costs is shown above)


Watch: Sewer Study Video Library 

If you prefer to watch your information instead of read it, you're in luck! Check out the sewer study video library below for video updates from City Council meetings, an explanation of sanitary vs. storm sewer systems, tips to keep your basement dry, and more. Videos appear from earliest to most recent beginning in July 2017.

Use the arrows on each side of the video player to scroll through the library.