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Flooding takes big bite out of man's land

AP Wire • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:40 PM

Paul Atkinson lost about 29 feet of land between his house and the river in Newaygo County's Croton Township. Now, exiting the front door of the home where he's lived since 1992 leaves him a step from an about 75-foot drop into the water.

Atkinson and his dog, Duke, are now staying at a hotel. Newaygo County emergency management officials are working to get him a new house.

"They said, 'We don't want you living here anymore right now because you might end up in the river in the middle of the night, and you wouldn't have any previous warning,'" Atkinson said, recalling the message from emergency management officials.

Newaygo County Emergency Services Director Abby Watkins said efforts are needed in other places along the river to prevent more homes from being lost. Some methods to stabilize banks can cost thousands of dollars, but such methods as getting plants to take root near the riverbank are cheaper.

"We are dealing with a lot of erosion, but not to this magnitude here," Watkins said during a visit to Atkinson's home.

The flooding began in April and lasted through early May. Gov. Rick Snyder this month declared a state of disaster in several areas that dealt with flooding, including Newaygo County.

The state police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division has been working with local officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on assessments. That work is an initial step to help the state determine whether to ask for federal assistance.

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