Collaborative project to help improve coastal community resilience in Michigan, Wisconsin

February 1, 2023
Written By:
Elizabeth Striano, Michigan Sea Grant
Road with yellow center stripe leading into flooded area on the horizon.

Michigan Sea Grant recently received $500,000 in funding to help improve resilience under future climate change scenarios in disadvantaged coastal communities in Michigan and Wisconsin.

The collaborative effort, funded by the national Sea Grant program, includes researchers from the University of Michigan, the U-M-based Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Sea Grant.

The project, “Development of a probabilistic compound flood hazard assessment tool and evaluation of countermeasures for Great Lakes cities,” will assess flood risk for disadvantaged communities in Berrien County, Michigan, and Milwaukee, and will provide a framework to extend the analysis throughout the Great Lakes.

“Flooding from rainfall and high lake levels have caused significant damage to Great Lakes communities, disproportionately affecting low-income and minority populations,” said lead principal investigator Michael Fraker, Michigan Sea Grant research program manager and an assistant research scientist at U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability. “This project will help enhance equity by focusing case studies on underserved communities.”

The research team will work with the communities to co-create potential flood risk mitigation measures and to develop tools to evaluate the effectiveness of these measures under present and future climate scenarios.

The project will also focus on communicating the coastal effects of storm-related events to communities in Great Lakes watersheds. A stakeholder advisory board of regional agencies and communities will help guide these efforts.

Researchers plan to develop flooding forecasts using global climate model simulations in the Great Lakes region by combining high-resolution data with regional 3D climate lake models. Lake levels, air pressure, wind vector, and precipitation data will be combined with hydrodynamic and wave models.

The researchers will use this information with NOAA’s Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System to simulate storm surges, shoreline overtopping, rainfall runoff, overland inundation and resulting building damages for return-period storms under present and future climate scenarios.

“The project team will combine sophisticated flood and damage models into a comprehensive tool that will help partner cities to intelligently plan flood risk reduction measures, taking into account how various approaches affect different neighborhoods,” said Jeremy Bricker, co-principal investigator and associate professor in the U-M Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Ultimately, the project will develop a tool for assessing the effectiveness of proposed nature-based (green) and traditional (gray) coastal flood-risk mitigation measures for multiple climate scenarios. This tool will be available to communities along the Great Lakes for implementation of effective flood-risk mitigation measures that consider impacts on equity while optimizing costs vs. benefits.

National Sea Grant provided a total of $3.9 million in funding for 10 projects focused on improving coastal resilience to Sea Grant organizations throughout the United States.

Michigan Sea Grant is a cooperative program of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that funds research, education and outreach projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of Great Lakes resources.