High Water in Benzie County Affects M-22, Frankfort Marina Areas
A portion of one state highway in Benzie County is down to one lane of traffic on this busy Memorial Day weekend. It’s because of ongoing concerns about high water levels – made worse by recent rainfall.
Rebecca Hubers is the Benzie County Emergency Management Director. “We call it the Elberta causeway, it’s the bridge that crosses the Betsie River.” It may just be a small section of roadway – but it’s also a state trunkline. Now, part of M-22 in Benzie County is down to one lane of traffic.
Huber says the water “has been flowing up and over to the point the Dept of Transportation had to put up temporary signals, traffic signals in order to allow just one lane traffic. Otherwise everybody would be driving through relatively deep water, probably 4-6 inches.”
And she says it’s clearly a safety concern. Water levels are fluctuating, sometimes hourly, between Frankfort and Elberta. “It’s almost like watching the tide. One minute the whole road is completely underwater. And I get pictures from law enforcement and locals saying the road is underwater.” But, she says, by the time the Road Commission arrives, the water has receded, and there is a 14 foot-wide path of dry pavement.
Because this is an M-road the state will continue to monitor the situation here. The county says if they do have to close it down it will mean a 15 mile detour, and a 20-30 minute trip that should be a five minute ride from Frankfort to Elberta. Huber says, “To shut it down also causes a whole myriad of problems so they’re being very cautious, but also safety and the integrity of the infrastructure is a factor.”
Meanwhile in the city of Frankfort, the parking lot to the marina is partially flooded and so is the playground at this city park. Huber says, “There’s just no place for the water to go. For lack of a better explanation we’re just retaining water. If we get more water it’s just going to keep swelling the area that’s already impacted by high water. Right in Frankfort along the water you’ll see the high water has impacted the playground area. There’s standing water which we have to keep an eye just because of bugs and health issues that happen with standing water.”
Marc Carlson is from Ann Arbor but owns a seasonal home here, and has been coming up to Frankfort since he was a boy. “We’ve been coming up ever since I was a kid. I haven’t seen the water like this other than the last couple years. It’s never been this high that I can remember.”
He was surprised to see so little activity for the holiday weekend. “It’s a little odd, Memorial Day weekend and only two boats in (the marina) so far. This year it looks like it’s going to have a serious effect. It might be the water level, might be COVID problems, it might be a lot of things related.”
And with the lake levels higher than the level that’s flooding the park, there’s nowhere for this water to go.