Feds seem to lack priorities when ‘helping’
We hear the phrase quite a bit in local government, usually when someone is running for office or some revenue stream is at risk. The concept would have real meaning if governments were forced to retreat from expanded roles. That rarely happens.
Some times we wonder if the phrase even exists on the federal level.
Apparently Leelanau, which asks little in return for its millions sent to Washington in taxes, doesn’t exist on a national level, either — at least judging by federal ignorance of local priorities.
For instance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been awash with money since its mishandling of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. What to do with all those funds and so few real emergencies? FEMA has been busy in Leelanau County rewriting flood maps.
We wonder, however, if FEMA cartographers have ever really taken a close look at Leelanau County. A peninsula, the odds of the county ever getting in the way of a flood are about as high as — well, how many Noahs do you know?
And yet, FEMA seems to think homes along Lake Leelanau are in danger of flooding, and through its remapping project would force property owners to buy expensive flood insurance to meet mortgage requirements. Never mind that lake frontage owners joined with the county in building a new dam at the lake’s only outlet onto Lake Michigan — a dam built to withstand a 200-year flood.
Even if the dam broke, we’re not sure how a torrent of water heading out of the basin would damage homes. But we digress.
Despite the efforts of the County Board, road commissioner John Popa, real estate agents including Vicky Oltersdorf, county community development director Trudy Galla and others, a FEMA spokesperson would only say that the department continues to study the situation and needs more information.
Meanwhile, federal dollars desperately needed to dredge the mouth of the Leland Harbor — a federally recognized harbor of refuge for the Great Lakes — are apparently on a slow boat to China. Or more precisely, given the present direction of our national inclination toward borrowing, funds are on a slow boat from China.
The narrow entrance to the harbor is a natural attraction for shifting sands. It needs a dredge every couple years to assure boats don’t hang up.
The harbor serves as gateway to the federally owned Manitou islands, a major tourism draw for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. However, ferries owned by Manitou Island Transit — and larger fishing and leisure boats, for that matter — would be hard pressed to negotiate their way today into Lake Michigan.
An environmental tragedy was narrowly averted in March when a 573-foot freighter ran aground in the Manistee harbor. The City of Manistee lobbied heavy for federal funds for dredging. The Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $333,000 contract to a Sault Ste. Marie company for the work.
So far, no funds have been allocated to clear out the Leland Harbor. To their credit, local groups including the Leland Michigan Chamber of Commerce and business are raising funds to have a portion of the sand blockage removed.
Meanwhile, FEMA appears fixated on the dangers of a 201-year flood — which on the bright side would unblock the harbor.
Lord help us. It doesn’t appear that the federal government will.