About those cooties….

And once again, that E-coli Factory called the Cuddy, comes up with bad numbers:

Test points and results in red.  Water temps shown in blue

Test points and results in red. Water temps shown in blue

 

The Tawsley Drain came up  with 291 Colony-Forming-Units per 100 ml; but is only carrying a miniscule amount of water right now.  I have GOT to get to that Boot Drain culvert under south 4th St!

Sorry for the downer-of-a-message right before Labor Day Weekend – but people need to keep the grandkids from swimming in the Cuddy Channel.

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Growing Cooties 8/29/13

Labor Day weekend is coming up – and the residents along the Cuddy Drain and Channel need to know how safe the water is.  At the risk of sounding cynical – I can probably say “not” (as in not safe) and be accurate; but it always helps to have some numbers tagged onto that assessment.  And being the Eternal Optimist that I am – I’m always hoping that some day, I’ll see numbers under that 300 CFU’s per 100/ml threshold.

So I gathered my trusty dip stick, sample bottles and sundry testing equipment, and headed off to the Cuddy Wilderness to do battle with mosquitoes, Deer Flies, and Poison Ivy in my quest for cooties.  Once the samples have been taken – I drive them to Summit Lab for analysis.  The samples are mixed with a growth medium, and in 24 hours, I’ll have the results of how many colonies were formed.

I also checked the water temperature at my sampling points – a laser-guided infrared temp gun makes easy and accurate work of that!  I was surprised to discover that the temps ranged from 57 to 67 degrees, in spite of the hot weather we’ve had – the Cuddy is definitely spring-fed.

Stay tuned!

E-coli Longevity: Cooties Are Tough

Today I went to E-coli School.  (Not really – but it felt like it…LOL!)  I attended a meeting at the State Park, that included some of the most brilliant folks who have years of experience and degrees in various fields regarding the study of all things E-coli….and I sat spellbound, listening, trying to absorb everything I could learn like a sponge!

 

The Good News (That’s Not Really Good):  E-coli is one tough little cootie 😦  Eric Pessell, Barry-Eaton District Health Department, confirmed what I’ve been fearing – that once E-coli enters a body of water, it nestles down into the sediment where it continues to live, thrive, and reproduce.  “Colonize” is the word he used.  All it really wants is wetness and some organic sediment or sand.  Doesn’t need oxygen, and doesn’t want sunshine.  Doesn’t seem to care about temperatures, either, since there was an inference that it CAN survive over a winter.  It just hangs out, undetected by ordinary water testing, until something stirs it up.

This explains why one beach can be tested in 3 different locations, and point A and Point B can have nice low E-coli levels; then just before the Water Tester collects at Point C, a kid/boat/big fish/Loch Ness Monster stir up the water and BAM! you get a huge number that skews the rest of the numbers and the Beach gets tagged with an “Advisory”.  It also might explain why I get the highest E-coli levels on the fastest water in the Cuddy; and how tests 200′ apart can be so different.

The Bad News:  Back to the concept of “E-coli Habitat” – if I was a cootie, this is where *I* would want to live:

Just a peek!

Nice fresh, cool, water; a snuggly blend of sand and sediment to live in; with all the streamside vegetation providing  nutrients and lovely protective shade.  Seriously – the E-coli version of a 5-star resort.  Where is this “Cootie Heaven”??  The Cuddy Drain, of course.  Or – if I preferred a more “urban” setting, I might float on down to live in the “High-rise” section:  you know that calf-deep muck in the Cuddy Channel??  Yup – a veritable “Cootie Condo”.

 

So now the question becomes: if there’s E-coli living in our water – how do we evict them?  Shannon Briggs, head of the DEQ’s Beach Monitoring Program, told of one location who attempted to “purify” an area where there had been a sewage spill, by treating it with chlorine, the ol’ Cootie-Killer.  Except that exposure to nasty-smelling chlorine is a lot worse than exposure to E-coli……  Actually, nobody offered any eviction ideas.  Maybe we’re stuck with them once they’ve arrived.

But THINGS I know for certain:

DON’T FEED THE COOTIES.  Keep anything “organic” (leaves, grass clippings, branches & twigs, etc) out of the water!

DON’T MAKE THEM A HOME.  Back to keeping organic stuff out of the water.  Trim back trees that drop leaves and provide protective shade.  Reduce sedimentation by slowing erosion.

DON’T PROVIDE FRIENDSHIP.  Those ducks/geese you were throwing bread to??  They’re putting more fecal matter into the water.  One goose sheds over a million E-coli per day.

 

Maybe if the neighborhood is unfriendly enough – they’ll go elsewhere……

The Cuddy Flood of April 17th, 2013

We had suffered the “Winter-that-would-never-end”, so the ground was already saturated with snowmelt when 2 rainy weeks dumped a total of 3″ of rain upon our area.  The additional 1″ of rain received early in the morning of April 17th was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Watersheds throughout Allegan and Barry Counties were pushed beyond their limits – and our own Cuddy Drain, aided by human carelessness, went on a rampage.

 

Since I had already been studying the Cuddy, and knowing it had been “full” prior to so much rain overnight, I grabbed my camera and headed out to snap some pictures.  I had lived here at Gun Lake back in 1997, and witnessed the Great Flood back then, so wasn’t too startled to see history repeating itself….

Mlynarchek's house on Patterson and the Cuddy

Mlynarchek’s house on Patterson and the Cuddy

In 1997,  a heavy rain had washed a tree stump down the drain, plugging the culverts under Patterson, and flooding Mrs Mlynarchek’s property.  To prevent something like that from happening again, a steel rebar grate was installed on the upstream side of the Patterson Bridge, to hold debris away from the culverts.  Unfortunately, last fall the Allegan Road Commission had cut back trees, branches, and shrubs along 1st St (in anticipation of closing Petterson for the bridge replacement) – and left all the woody debris “lying in the ditch”.  The problem is that the “ditch” is actually the Tawsley/Holbrook Drain (an upper tributary of the Cuddy); and once it filled with water, much of that debris was carried downstream where it clogged up the grate at Patterson, essentially creating a dam 😦

Clearing the woody debris

Clearing the woody debris from the grate with an excavator

Outflow from Patterson

Silty outflow from Patterson

Fortunately, this time the Cuddy was kept confined to its channel, more or less.  The 1997 Flood almost washed away Patterson Rd, washed out a large section along the east side of Patterson exposing the gas main; and destroyed seawalls on the opposite channel shore.  This time, the Road Commission acted quickly to clear the debris.

Excavator clears debris

Excavator clears debris

10 cubic yards of debris

10 cubic yards of debris

Please note the nicely sawed-off ends of the branches in the debris pile – this is NOT “naturally-occuring deadfall”.  This came from cutting back trees on First St. 

Next,  I drove over to First St:

Looking north on 1st St

Looking north on 1st St

Clearly, a large portion of 1st St had been underwater at some point – you can see the waterline about 50 yards behind my car.  The water on the left side of the picture is the Tawsley/Holbrook Drain that runs next to 1st St, and is filled with debris still…  that debris also clogged up the smaller culverts running under 1st St.

Looking to the south on 1st St

Looking to the south on 1st St

The plugged culverts are where you see the logs that were carried across the road by the water.

Looking west up the Cuddy Drain

Looking west up the Cuddy Drain

You can see the small circular whirlpool where a tiny bit of water is trying to go through the culverts

Looking downstream at 1st St

Looking downstream at 1st St

Note the silt-laden water coming from the culvert under the driveway (top right corner of photo) – that’s the road shoulder washing away….

Shoulder of 1st St washing out

Shoulder of 1st St washing out

Surface of 1st St is half gone

Surface of 1st St is half gone

The top layer, an inch or more, of 1st St is simply scoured away – washed INTO the Cuddy Drain.  Much of the road’s shoulders suffered the same fate.  This picture is critical – because shortly after I took it, the Road Commission showed up; and one of the things they did was to re-grade the road.  I might have been one of the few who witnessed this senseless erosion, cause by the woody debris left behind by the Road Commission.

Road CommissionHere they are – about to block off the road so an excavator can clear the debris.  More about this later.

Further upstream, Timber Creek Dr was faring much better than its downstream neighbors – the Cuddy was swollen, but contained within its banks.  It’s also relatively “clean” (compared to downstream)  Of course, there’s also no debris up here, so the culverts were able to handle the additional load!

Timber Creek, looking west

Timber Creek, looking west

Timber Creek looking east

Timber Creek looking east

Confluence of Boot Lake Drain and Cuddy Drain

Confluence of Boot Lk Drain & Cuddy Drain, looking east

 

The next morning, I got a phone call from a friend who said that 1st St was washed out.  I said “no it’s not – I drove across it yesterday morning”  He said “You need to go look at it, and bring your camera”.

 

Well, Holy Cow!!!!!!!!!!

The death of 1st St

The death of 1st St

It seems the Allegan County guys, in their efforts with an excavator to clear the debris (sitting in the road in the foreground) – managed to snag the ends of the culverts with the excavator, and pulled them out!  That’s the biggest “oopsy!” I’ve ever seen!  So yes, now 1st St is closed, and I’ve heard rumors that it might get repaired – or might not.  I feel bad for the folks who live on 1st St who now have a daily detour….

Also – the easiest way for the County guys to block the road for cars thinking they can drive around the barricade… is to dump HUGE piles of sand on either side of the washout, extending the entire width of the road.  You know, the road with the DRAIN IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT TO IT.  Great – just what we DON’T need washing into the Cuddy 😦

Back on Patterson – once cleared, the culverts are doing a slow-but-steady job of lowering the Cuddy water levels

Mlynarchek's yard emerging from the flood

Mlynarchek’s yard emerging from the flood

But the old bridge hasn’t fared well against the onslaught – it’s clear that the base has been somewhat undermined.  The Patterson Bridge was already in the works to be replaced – this damage shows that it needs to be done.

Damage to the Patterson shoulder

Damage to the Patterson shoulder

But the bottom line?  If the Allegan County Road Commission had casually mentioned to the Allegan County Drain Commission “Hey – we might have left some debris in your drain?” – ALL this flooding would never have happened.

 

As a postscript: don’t think all the debris is done washing down the Cuddy – oh no, far from it:

Debris accumulated in 8 weeks

Debris accumulated in 8 weeks after the flood

On June 15th, 2013, Greg Purcell and I braved the mosquitoes and Poison Ivy (and the ever-present E-coli) – and walked down the Cuddy Drain from 1st St to Patterson.  It’s a lovely walk through a beautiful forest – but at the end, we were greeted by the ever-growing pile of debris on the grate again 😦 

In all fairness, yesterday, when I took my photos (see previous post) – the grate was clean.  Not sure who cleared it – but since Greg and I had mentioned the new accumulation to Russ Yarger, Barry County Drain Commissioner – I think he’s responsible 🙂 

Thank you, Mr Guardian Angel of the Cuddy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Photo Tour of The Cuddy

It was a nice day, so I grabbed my camera for a photo-shoot of the Cuddy.  I LOVE this Drain that’s more like a creek; and the people who live along it seem to love it, too!  It babbles as it makes its short 2.3 mile journey to the Channel leading into Gun Lake, and the water is crystal clear (although slightly coffee-tinged by tannins in the wetlands, like all the other rivers and lakes in Barry County).

First stop: Fourth St. north of M-179/Chief Noonday Rd.  This is part of the Cuddy system, and is little more than a trickle by mid-August as it travels past two homes:

NfourthE

From 4th St, it travels diagonally and crosses under M-179:

Looking North

Looking North

Looking South

Looking South

The southern view troubles me – the crop seen in the upper part of the photo is planted within 10 to 15 feet of the drain.  That’s too darn close – but there are MANY places along the Cuddy where proximity is a problem.

Going over to Timber Creek Dr, the Drains are all but hidden in the brush – but you can still hear them babbling!  The Cuddy Drain and the Boot Lake Drain cross Timber Creek within 100′ of each other, then join together to the east.

Just a peek!

Just a peek!

 

Next comes First St – by this point, the Cuddy is a nice little creek that is joined by the Tawsley/Holbrook Drain.  Right now, it’s clear and lovely; but the Tawsley runs alongside First St for quite a distance before joining the Cuddy;  and in a heavy rain, receives a LARGE amount of sand and sediment running off the road surface.  That is one of the Patterson Bridge Replacement issues that will need to be addressed VERY soon.

First St looking west

First St looking west

 

First St looking east

First St looking east

 

The Tawsley/Holbrook Drain as it meets 1st St

The Tawsley/Holbrook Drain as it meets 1st St

On to Patterson Rd – at this point, the Cuddy becomes residential and the “Gateway to Gun Lake” for over 100 residents:

Patterson, looking west

Patterson, looking west

 

Dramatic difference when looking to the east

Dramatic difference when looking to the east

 

And finally, after a half-mile run down the Cuddy Channel, it opens into Robbin’s Bay in Gun Lake!

The mouth of the Cuddy Channel

The mouth of the Cuddy Channel

 

So pretty and serene, right?  Next I’ll show its sinister side….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning from Macatawa

An effort to clean up Lake Macatawa (Holland, MI)  by cleaning up the Macatawa River and its huge watershed, can be our role model.  This article outlines “Project Clarity” – the overall scope of which is simply mind-boggling!  If they can clean up this massive watershed, the Cuddy should be a piece of cake!

http://www.hollandsentinel.com/news/x871008919/Ambitious-Project-Clarity-to-clean-up-Lake-Macatawa-will-involve-many-smaller-steps-and-projects?zc_p=1

and the links at the end of the article will take you to the watershed study – or you can go there from this link for the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council:

http://www.the-macc.org/watershed/overview/

 

A sincere Thank You to Mick Barney for telling me about Project Clarity!

Good News For The Lake #3

GLPA Around-the-lake tests 8/6/2013

GLPA Around-the-lake tests 8/6/2013

 

Once again, random tests show that Gun Lake is squeaky-clean!  Beautiful beaches!  The only “bad numbers” belong to my Problem Child – the Cuddy Drain and Channel.   I suppose I should be happy that the test for the area near Boardwalk Condos has dropped 100; but on this boat trip, Joel and Jerry went up as close as they could get by boat, to the Patterson Bridge; and the E-coli level there is 6 times the “safe” amount of 300 colonies/100ml.  But now I am wondering…. that test was on the downstream side of the Patterson Culvert.  As the water drops from the culvert, does it stir up a lot of sediment??  Or is the Cuddy, once again, that tainted?  So many questions……

Must be time to fire up the DIY microbiology lab….