Building community resiliency in the Saginaw Bay watershed

Collaborative project to help Saginaw Bay watershed communities prepare for extreme storms.

Sanford Village Park in Midland County under water after an extreme storm event. Photo: Midland County Office of Emergency Management
Sanford Village Park in Midland County under water after an extreme storm event. Photo: Midland County Office of Emergency Management

Extreme storm events present a serious threat to community health, safety and economic stability. The full impacts of extreme storms extend far beyond flooding to include a range of issues such as erosion, infrastructure destabilization, runoff pollution, waterborne diseases and damage to crops.

In recent decades, extreme storms across the United States have increased in frequency and intensity. This trend has been especially notable in the Midwest where the amount of precipitation falling in the heaviest 1 percent of storms increased by 37 percent between 1958 and 2012.

The Saginaw Bay watershed is particularly vulnerable to storm hazards because of the region’s unique topography and land use patterns. A complex network made up of 7,000 miles of rivers and streams, the Saginaw Bay watershed drains roughly 15 percent of the state of Michigan. This massive watershed includes both urban and agricultural lands. The watershed drains into Saginaw Bay, a highly productive wildlife habitat that includes the largest contiguous freshwater coastal wetland system in the country.

Because the watershed covers such a large flat area, extreme storm impacts are quickly magnified. Communities within the Saginaw Bay watershed face a major challenge in adapting to increased frequency and intensity of storm events.

A new collaborative of Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension, and several local partner organizations in the Saginaw Bay region seeks to improve community resiliency across the Saginaw Bay watershed through a two-phase project. The project is funded through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Storms Program.

Phase 1 of the project will assess key decision-makers’ perceptions of storm hazards, stormwater runoff, and resiliency strategies in the Saginaw Bay watershed. Phase 2 will develop a suite of education and outreach materials focused on filling gaps in awareness, knowledge and technical capacity identified during the assessment.

The project will target stakeholders involved with community planning, hazard mitigation and regional development in order to reach leaders with both a strong interest in resiliency issues and the capacity to influence change at the community-wide scale.

Get involved!

If you work in the Saginaw Bay watershed area, take 10 minutes to complete the survey and help bring new tools and resources to communities impacted by extreme storms. The survey will close on November 16, 2015.

In particular we are looking for feedback from those working in the sectors of community planning, economic development, and emergency management.

Your feedback will directly inform future projects to improve community preparedness and reduce extreme storm impacts in the 22 counties of the Saginaw Bay watershed.

You can read more about the project details here or contact Katy Hintzen at with any questions or comments.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

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