MENOMINEE — During a Water and Wastewater Utility Board meeting Thursday, City Manager Tony Graff and committee member Wes Hoffman discussed the issue of sinkholes forming in town and other damages as a result of the storms and high water the city has seen in recent weeks.

When reviewing the year-to-date financials, City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Brofka said there had been some budget adjustment for costs related to contracted services for sewer repairs because of sinkhole damage. “How are we doing on sinkholes?” Hoffman asked.

“We’re probing about two a day,” Graff said. “Right now they’re forming but they haven’t happened yet, so we’re exploring before they do happen. We’re probing some of the roads that are starting to sink in some spots. We filled two yesterday (Wednesday) with gravel.”

Graff said he had thought the ones that were filled were related to a sewer issue, but most of the sinkholes the city is dealing with are stormwater-related. “It’s not a water main issue,” he said. “Most of the sinkholes are storm water; they’re more around the catch basins.”

“Do we have any idea how to get ahead of it?” Hoffman asked.

“We do; we televised and know where the worst of them are,” Graff said, “and because of that we’re able to go in and pull the televising up to see if there were any cracks in the pipes. If we’re in a manhole, we can see if there’s any change, and they way it looks it’s most likely water coming in from the storm drains and following the pipes.”

According to Graff, there are areas in town where the water table is sitting 30 inches below ground due to the storm water. “People are digging fence poles and they run into water at 30 inches,” he said.

The recent storms have not only contributed to sinkholes but have done considerable damage to Menominee’s shoreline. Menominee isn’t alone in this, however; these issues are cropping up in other places in the Upper Peninsula. Hoffman said he had recently spoken to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in Marquette, and he said, “They’ve never approved as many shore protection applications with the Army Corps of Engineers as they have recently. They’re doing it at a record pace and a record level. They’re apparently coming in every day.”

Hoffman said that Menominee has lost 20 feet of property since the snow melted. In the past, he said the DEQ would “find a way to say ‘No’ if they could. Now they’re trying to find a way to say ‘Yes,’ and I appreciate that.”