Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Project holds final stakeholder workshop

MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - For the past two years, the Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have been working with local officials and volunteers on a program called MICHAP.

MICHAP, or the Michigan Climate and Health Adaption Project, works to address how to plan for problems caused by climate change that can impact the landscape around us or human health.

On Wednesday, MICHAP had its final stakeholder workshop.

"What we hope to accomplish today is that we start to move into an implementation phase where local leaders can take some of the concepts that researchers have put forth, some best practices that have been identified, and can begin to implement some of these things in their own communities," says Brad Neumann, Senior Extension Educator at Michigan State University.

These adaptations are being done through things like changes in master plans and amendments to land use regulations.

In Marquette, City Planner Dave Stensaas mentioned how they've already made changes to requirements for new developments like mandated landscaping for groundwater retention.

These ideas were given after officials noted four primary areas of concern in the Marquette area, like water related issues, vector awareness, air quality, and extreme weather events.

The Department of Health and Human Services is involved to oversee the public health aspect of the program.

"They already had a number of climate plans in place for the city of Marquette for the county of Marquette and one thing that we noticed is the public health concerns weren't as strong in that," says Aaron Ferguson, Program Manager for Michigan Climate Health Adaptation Program at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

By working on the MICHAP program, the Department of Health and Human Services has had the chance to address public health issues in ways that are understandable to locals, and relevant to the program at hand.

"We've had a really positive response and people have stayed engaged throughout and I think are looking at their own plans now and thinking, 'how do we integrate this into our work?'"

At the back of the room sat graphics on ways these improvements can be made across the county.

These graphics are one of the ideas outlined in Volumes 1 through 3 designed by MICHAP on ways that programs can be implemented in these communities.

"One of the novel concepts or applications within this project is trying to use visuals to help communicate some of the adaptation strategies that could be used," says Neumann.

The point of the program is to plan ahead in case of an extreme event caused by the climate, such as the Houghton County Father's Day floods of 2018.

Neumann says these changes will only help improve communities across the area.

"Regardless of one's perspective on the issue, a lot of recommendations are steps that really just can help make a community more resilient, more accommodating to all individuals," says Neumann.