What We Know About The Montgomery Drain Project

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Dylan Lees for ELi

A catch basin in East Lansing

In the weeks and months following torrential rains that flooded portions of East Lansing and numerous basements, ELi has had several readers inquire about the ongoing Montgomery Drain Project and its potential future impact in mitigating local flooding.

According to a City of Lansing website about the project, “The current Montgomery Drain stormwater improvement project will repair sections of the existing drain and add new facilities including detention ponds, rain gardens and ‘low impact design’ features. Areas within the City of Lansing include the former Red Cedar Golf Course, the Frandor Shopping area and the Frandora Hills neighborhood (see map). The project was initiated in 2014, however, construction began in 2020 and is expected to last for two years.”

Because the Montgomery Drain mainly serves areas of Lansing, that city will bear the bulk of the cost — a little more than $22 million at present. 

But parts of East Lansing are also included in the footprint of the Montgomery Drain. Both the Hillcrest Village apartments to the east, plus portions of neighborhoods to the north, on the eastern side of Coolidge Road, are included in the project’s footprint.

As we’ve previously reported, the project is being paid for mostly by the City of Lansing. The City of East Lansing is covering roughly 7.2% of the project’s cost. ELi asked in January how the City intends to pay for its portion of the project. 

According to then-Director of Public Works Scott House (who is currently on leave from the City for military duty), East Lansing’s portion of the cost will be paid for out of the general fund. The estimated cost to the City shared with ELi then was $2,639,562.80, and the City will pay that amount off with annual payments of $111,072.45. The first payment was scheduled to be paid on July 1, 2021.

And for its approximately $2.6 million, the City of East Lansing is getting four stubbed connections — a point for the municipal sewer to connect to the drain — for “future connection of the City’s storm sewer system,” according to the project agreement between the City and the Montgomery Drain Drainage District. The Montgomery Drain Drainage District is chaired by Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann.

The stubbed connection points are shown on a map included with the project agreement. There will be two connection points measuring 24 and 18 inches, respectively, at the northwest corner of East Saginaw Street and Coolidge Road; a 30-inch connection point on West Grand River, between Coolidge and Touraine Avenue; and a 54-inch connection point at the end of Oak Ridge Avenue.

Map from the City of East Lansing

The four stubbed connections in East Lansing are marked with red lines.

However, these connection points will not be a source of immediate relief, namely because the project is still slated to be finished in early-to-mid-2022. The Lansing State Journal did report in July that the project could start pumping water by this fall, quoting Lindemann saying as much. There has not been any announcement since then that the new drain has become operational. 

ELi contacted Lindemann to see which parts of the project have been completed and what still remains to be done, but he has not responded to our request for comment.

According to a resolution passed in May 2014 by the Ingham County Board of Commissioners, which authorized Lindemann to petition for improvements to the drain, the work being done “is necessary for the public health, and is required at this time due to flooding of parcels within the Montgomery Drain Drainage District and due to pollution of the Montgomery Drain resulting in pollution of the waters of the state.” 

Lindemann has touted the environmental benefits of the project, which is designed to greatly reduce the amount of pollution getting to the Red Cedar river from the Montgomery Drain. Also, according to a presentation from the County Drain Commissioner’s office, this project “will reduce minor storm flooding like this one. The amount of reduced flooding will vary with each storm but there will be a noticeable difference.”

Slide from Ingham County Drain Commissioner

A slide from Lindemann’s presentation.

But the areas that will be served by these improvements are mostly in Lansing. Maps of the sewer pipes being worked on in this project, which are color-coded to show the overall condition and capacity, show that only Lansing pipes are getting maintenanced.

From the Ingham County Drain Commissioner.

A map of the sewer lines receiving work as part of the Montgomery Drain Project.

So while the Montgomery Drain project will likely have a beneficial impact for East Lansing residents — especially those living in the western portions of town — it will likely not be a notable one in regard to their own flooded basements.

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