Drainage Board Meeting 12/10/13

First of all, two important dates lie ahead:

INFORMATIONAL MEETING FOR THE PUBLIC  Saturday Feb 1st 10 AM @  Yankee Springs Township Hall

Mark Englerth asked the engineers who gave today’s informative presentation, to show it again to anyone who’s interested in this process of replacing the Patterson Bridge and lessening some of the Cuddy Drain’s issues.  If you have questions or suggestions – THIS IS THE TIME TO ADDRESS THOSE THINGS.  If you live in the Cuddy Drain Assessment District – you will be paying for these projects.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

DRAINAGE BOARD NECESSITY HEARING;  Wednesday Feb 5th, 6 PM at the Yankee Springs Township Hall

This is the final meeting, where the Cuddy Intercounty Drain Drainage Board will authorize the projects going forward regarding replacing the Patterson Bridge and other projects connected to that.  I will try to explain some of those projects in the rest of this post.  The hoped-for timeline(“Best-case Scenario”): construction bids will be accepted by late summer, and the bridge replacement will begin after Labor Day 2014


This morning’s meeting was a “draft” of the information that will be offered at the final Drainage Board meeting called a “Necessity Hearing”.  This final meeting is where the Intercounty Drainage Board finds it necessary to replace the Patterson Bridge over the Cuddy Drain, and thereby has the right to assess those living in the district, to pay for it.  They will also look at  some options relating to this replacement, and of course, we’ll be paying for those, too.

Dan Fredricks (Land and Resource Engineering, LLC) and Aaron Snell (Streamside Ecological Service, Ins) gave a great presentation!  Here are some facts I wrote down:

The Cuddy Drain Watershed is 4047 acres; and 98.5% of it lies in Allegan County.  There are 3.2 miles of drain in the Cuddy system (this excludes other drains that tie into the Cuddy like the Tawsley/Holbrook; and even though the Boot Lake/Gardner Drain is part of the Cuddy Drain, it is being left out of the project due to not requiring repairs).  There is a 30′ access easement on each side of the drain.  754 acres will be added to the Cuddy Drain watershed, and 118 acres will be subtracted, as the district map will be changed to accommodate the actual topographical boundaries of the watershed, instead of using property lines.

As I’ve posted before, part of the current Cuddy Drain has always existed as a spring-fed creek; but in 1951 it was aligned to its present configuration.  The Valley Park Shores Plat was developed in the mid-50s and the drain was dredged and widened.  By 1985, the channel had filled with enough sediment, that it was dredged again, and 12,000 cubic yds of sand and sediment were removed.  To help slow the refilling of the channel, a Sedimentation Basin (I’ve been calling it the Sand Trap) was created in the drain between 1st St and Patterson; it held about 450 cubic yds of sediment, and as long as it was cleaned out every 3 to 5 years, it worked nicely!  The last 2 times the Sand Trap was dredged were in 2002 and in 2008, when the program was halted due to no easy place to put the dredged spoils.  By late 2010, the channel had once again filled, and was dredged just east of Patterson, removing 1700 cubic yds of sand.  A year and a half later, that had filled back in.

Dan said that the average yearly sediment load is approx 400 cubic yards.  Given the steep drop that the Cuddy makes on its short journey from source-to-lake, it will always carry sediment.  The best we can hope for is to eliminate the worst of the erosion (much of which happens in the stretch from Timber Creek to 1St St); and by reopening the Sand Trap, try to capture as much as possible before it gets to the channel.  He also suggested adding a debris grate of some sort, near the Sand Trap, to capture as much woody debris (again coming from the Timber Creek/1st St area) as possible and make it easier to be cleaned periodically.  Deb’s opinion: These two items would do SO MUCH for reducing the problems experienced by the homeowners along the channel – we need to encourage the Drainage Board to include them in the project!!!  Yes, this will mean a higher price tag (Dan will be outlining some costs at the next meeting) – but if it’s not addressed now, it will probably never happen.

Now for the bad news:  The E-coli problem is really not the Drainage Board’s responsibility.  Yes, the Cuddy Drain delivers it to recreational water and makes it so 130+ homeowners don’t dare touch their water…. but how it gets there/grows there – is not within the realm of their oversight.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not giving up.  It’s just that improving THAT issue will require a different set of “champions”, I guess?  When Brady Harrington, Dan Fredricks, and Aaron Snell walked the entire length of the Cuddy; they noticed some PVC pipes extending into the drain – illicit septic connections, perhaps??  But people blowing leaves and grass clippings into the drain/channel are hardly any better.  We need people to speak up about sources of pollution; and to try to educate their neighbors.

More bad news: This is the Cuddy Intercounty Drain Drainage Board.  They are looking at ALL the problems along the Cuddy – and although there’s been some slapstick repairs done to 1st St – it’s still a mess.  It sounds like some of the costs of rebuilding 1st St will be added to this project.  There’s hope that some Federal funds might be made available – but nobody is saying that’s locked in yet.  It peeves me no end to pay for a mistake that the Allegan Road Commission folks made in ripping out the culverts with an excavator – but there’s no question that the road needs to be fixed.  Pronto.

Funding:  Because Patterson is a bridge over a county drain – the folks in the drainage district get to help pay for it.  Yes, I know – I can hear you whining already that GOBS of people (many of them tourists) use Patterson.  The folks on the Cuddy Channel are extra-lucky: they get to pay Lake taxes plus Drainage Board taxes.  Is it fair?  In my opinion, no – but I’ll let someone else fight that battle. The Allegan and Barry Road Commissions stepped up and said they’d pay half.  Back in 1985, the Drain Commissioners established a proration template: if work on the Cuddy Drain was done on the west side of Patterson, 78% of the cost was assessed to the Allegan district residents; and 22% of the cost was assessed to the Barry district residents.  If work was done on the east side of Patterson, the assessments were vice-versa, with Barry district residents paying the 78%.  Anything done to the bridge itself was divided 50/50.

It’s my understanding, that Dan will be presenting a “menu” of sorts – various projects that will go hand-in-hand with the bridge replacement.  The bridge replacement itself, is not up for debate. The cheapest option would be to just replace the bridge.  But the DEQ demands that the new Patterson bridge be a clear-span opening 16′ wide by 4′ tall.  There will be NOTHING to stop an entire tree from washing down the drain, into the channel, and out into Gun Lake (not to mentions TONS of smaller debris).  If 1st St washes out in the Spring rains – all that sand is going to land somewhere downstream of the Patterson Bridge, where the channel is already reduced to 12″ deep in places.  NOW is the time to deal with ALL of the issues, while we have engineers and Drain Commissioners working with us and focused on this project.  If we let this opportunity pass, in order to save money – we’ll never get it to happen later.