Falling Through the Cracks Again…

As I’ve talked to folks about cleaning up the Cuddy, a few have said “You ought to see if the State would give you a grant for that“.

At first I hesitated. I was trained to do Water Sampling by Joanne Barnard of the Barry Conservation District, so I understand the proper procedures required by the State for testing; but quite honestly – taking 3 samples (left, right, and center) of a stream that’s 2′ wide is kind of redundant. And at $15/test; plus a drive to Grand Rapids – not cheap, either. Sampling the 6 usual sites I’ve been tracking would cost $270 plus $10 for gas and an 80-minute round trip? When I do my own testing, it costs about $15 and 10 minutes.

Lately, I’ve received notices of grants available for “River, Stream and Creek Cleanup”; plus monitoring through the “MICorps Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program” – so I figured “why not ask?”

Well, poo.

MICorps is interested in water quality data for Aquatic Health – and since we already know the Cuddy is a sick little thing – they aren’t interested in our debris and e-coli. The lady who oversees the Volunteer Cleanup Program (which I have been a part of, on the Thornapple River) is on vacation, but will probably tell me “no” since they LEAVE woody debris and just pick up trash (tires/shoes/bottles, etc). The Cuddy is actually pristine when it comes to trash – we need to get rid of the woody stuff.

Another program, offered by the DNR, is to improve aquatic habitat “to enhance Michigan’s world-class fisheries”. While there ARE fish (minnows) in the Cuddy, I doubt we qualify for that one, also.

The Intercounty Drainage Board has said (nicely) that e-coli is outside the scope of their responsibilities.

This has been going on for decades – everybody acknowledges that the Cuddy delivers e-coli into Gun lake; but nobody wants to figure out how to stop it.

Bottom line – nobody seems too interested in rescuing an agricultural drain, except us.  And the GLPA.  And Yankee Springs Township 🙂  This is the ultimate “grass-roots movement”.  We can do this!


Tick, Tick, Tick….

Today is Wednesday, Feb 19th, 2014.  It’s a beautiful day – the warmest we’ve seen in a mighty long time.  There’s a big yellow thing in the sky and it feels good on my face 🙂

Tawsley/Holbrook Drain at 1st St

Tawsley/Holbrook Drain at 1st St

The Tawsley looks happy – just burbling along!

Repaired Single-lane bridge at 1st St

Repaired Single-lane bridge at 1st St

The sand piles are gone off 1st St and one lane is open!  YAY!!

Cuddy Drain west of 1st St

Cuddy Drain west of 1st St

The Cuddy is filled nicely and isn’t threatening to take out the road.  It’s really a pretty little stream!

Cuddy west of Patterson Rd

Cuddy west of Patterson Rd

Oh Fffffuuuuudge………

You know it has been cold when a FAST-MOVING body of water freezes over – I was stunned a few days ago to see the Cuddy completely, solidly covered in snow.  Today, as the water gently rises due to melting snow, it’s breaking off slabs of heavy ice – you can see the barge-sized slabs waiting to be freed.  A year from now, when the Patterson Bridge has been widened to 16′, these slabs could pose a problem for Channel Residents – not sure what to do about that?  I never expected something as fast as the Cuddy to freeze?!  I can’t say that I ever remember it freezing (west of Patterson) in my almost 20-yrs of living here?

But right now, there’s a Debris Barrier in front of the Patterson culverts.  That will stop the barges from crashing into and taking out somebody’s dock or boat lift….BUT: if enough blocks of ice get hung up on that barrier, we could have a repeat of last Spring’s flood.

Tomorrow, the forecast calls for above-freezing temps/wind/as much as an inch of rain.  I’m asking all my Cuddy Friends to keep an eye on the road crossings….

Edited Thursday Feb 20th, 3:30 PM:  Mother Nature has given us a much-needed break: the worst of the rain has gone to our north; and it hasn’t warmed as much as they predicted.  Grand Rapids is getting clobbered, though…. I’ll swing by the Patterson Bridge on my way home from work, to see how it’s doing.  Should be fine.

Thank You, GLPA!!

At last night’s Board meeting for the Gun Lake Protective Association (GLPA), they agreed to give me (and therefore the Friends Of The Cuddy Drain) a certain amount of financial backing. It was my fellow GLPA Board Members (last year) who gave me the initial monetary go-ahead to study the water quality and take samples for analysis. Granted, the GLPA is the voice of the entirety of Gun Lake, so that’s why our little Cuddy-centric group (FOCD) was formed – but the GLPA is very interested in the Patterson bridge replacement and Cuddy Drain issues, so I make sure to keep them up-to-date.

If you’re reading this blog – you must care about water quality. And if you care about water quality – you really should support the GLPA. If you’re not already a member, you can join at http://www.myglpa.com

The Second “Ticking Time Bomb”

Many posts/months ago, I talked about the Ticking Time Bomb that was 1st St – where 2 of the 4 culverts under that road had been accidentally pulled out by an excavator clearing debris. I figured all it would take was the usual Spring snow melt-off and some rain, to wash that road completely out – and the cascade of sand and debris washing down the Cuddy was going to be epic. “Epic” in a bad sort of way.

I had no idea back then, that we’d have such a snowy winter, where the snowpack currently on the ground is the equivalent of 5″ of rain! WZZM-TV is calling this rain-equivalent a ticking time bomb:

Granted, they are referencing flood-prone areas along rivers – but if the massive Grand River can flood – the Cuddy will be raging,  too.   1st St is fragile to start with – and if it washes out – the next spot to get clobbered with the debris will be the Patterson Bridge, which isn’t exactly “robust”, either….

So if you’re reading this blog – you clearly care about the Cuddy.  And if we get a significant melt-off (rain would just be the icing on the cake) – please take a moment as you drive down Patterson or 1st St, to make sure the culverts aren’t plugging up with debris.  The Patterson culverts can handle flood waters as long as they are clear.  I’m praying that 1st St can make it through the Spring – we sure don’t need that load of sediment if it washes out.  But we REALLY don’t want Patterson washing out.

Thank you for your help!


Fair and Equitable for Island Drive!! YES!!

One of the goals set forth by the Cuddy Intercounty Drain petition from Yankee Springs Township was that payment for the Patterson Bridge Replacement/Cuddy Drain Improvement project was “Fair and Equitable”.

Some time ago, Island Drive residents wanted to add the channel lying west of Island Drive to the Cuddy System, but that was deemed “not practicable” by the Drainage Board, so never became part of the Cuddy Drain. Of course, the folks who live on Island Drive are still assessed as being part of the Cuddy Drainage District – they get all of the costs and none of the benefits, since that channel is as sorely in need of dredging as the Cuddy Channel.

Today, Mark Englerth called, happy to report that Russ Yarger (Barry Drain Commissioner) had talked to Brady Harrington (Head of the Intercounty Drainage Board) – and it sounds like the Island Drive Channel will be added to the dredging portion of the Project!!


PS: Back at the 2/1/14 informational meeting, as the audience learned the scope of the project, asked thoughtful questions, and gave informed feedback to the Drainage Board…. Mark Englerth leaned over and whispered “This is government at its finest!”.  And I agreed.

“Necessity” Has Been Agreed Upon

Tonight, at the Intercounty Drainage Board meeting, my heart soared as several Cuddy Channel residents asked the Board members to adopt the entire scope of the Bridge Replacement and Drain Improvement as laid out by Dan Fredricks, project engineer!! In other words, these folks stepped up and said “I am willing to pay extra, to have cleaner water”

The next steps will be more public meetings (TBA), where the Drainage Board will decide which projects will be included as part of the total package, but they have consistently shown that they ARE listening to us!

The project “package” is still evolving – at tonight’s meeting we learned that the 1st St culvert replacement will also require the same 16′ span required for Patterson Rd.   Since what was originally a “simple fix” just got bigger – it was removed from the Cuddy Drain package entirely. This worries me – I don’t know when that will be repaired; and Lord knows it needs fixing desperately.  On the other hand – the Tawsley/Holbrook drain section that runs right alongside 1st St is probably responsible for an inordinate amount of sediment in the Cuddy.  The Drain Commission, when petitioned, has a right to “relocate along a highway” – and if ever there was something that desperately needs to move, it’s  that section of the drain.  Stay tuned…..

A comment I overheard:  “If they wanted to be heroes, the Allegan and Barry County Road Commissions would step up and offer to pay for the Patterson Bridge”  Heck yeah!!  I think we’d even have a “Cuddy Drain Road Commission Appreciation Day” 🙂

Added 2/6/14:

At some point (assuming the two Road Commissions don’t step up) – each person in the Cuddy Drain Assessment District will be given a mailed notice of a day where they can go to their respective Drain Commissioner’s office and review their assessment.  My understanding of how each piece of property is assessed, is based on several things – the most important being: how much of the property “drains”.  The more impervious  (for most of us, this would be the house and any pavement) your property is, the higher your assessment will be.

Also, it was mentioned a couple of times, that the water retention pond for Pleasant Valley Estates (SE of the BP/McDonald’s) has a high-water outlet that runs to the Cuddy Channel.  At some point, those homes will be added to the Cuddy Assessment district.  Lucky them 😉

Public Informational Meeting Feb 1st, 2014

Today’s presentation given by Dan Fredricks, Land and Resource Engineering, was appreciated by the intrepid souls who braved the snowstorm to attend!  This is sort of a re-run of the “Practicability Hearing” information I posted previously; but I’ll give the bullet-point rundown of the topics covered:

Cuddy Drain Watershed:  4037 acres, 98.7% of which lies in Allegan County  Total length of the Cuddy Drain: 3.2 miles (this doesn’t include the other named drains like Boot Lake and Tawsley/Holbrook that feed into the Cuddy)

Current Petition:  The Practicability Hearing was held in Sept; so the next step is the “Neccessity Hearing” on Wednesday Feb 5th, 2014 6 PM at the Yankee Springs Township Hall on Briggs Rd.  Public attendance is encouraged!

Drain History:  (Deb’s note: There was a nameless creek draining Boot and Round lakes into Gun Lake, on an 1873 map)  The Cuddy Drain was established in 1915; and realigned in 1951, with the channel E of Patterson being dredged 4′ deep and 80′ wide.  In 1985, this eastern section was again fully dredged to a depth of 4′.  In 1991, a Sediment-trapping Basin was dredged between 1st St and Patterson; and it was cleaned periodlically until the county ran out of places to put the dredged sand, approximately in 2008.

Existing Conditions:  Most of the sediment, erosion, and woody debris are coming from the stretch between Timber Creek Rd and 1st St; this will be the area pinpointed for remediation.  Most of the culverts along the Cuddy are undersized; and rusting out and falling apart.  Two culvert sections at 1st St were accidentally ripped out during  debris-clearing operations (although the sections that can be seen are clearly rusted-through).  The drain was originally dredged at a steep angle; and through the decades, the water has stair-stepped its way downhill as Nature tries to seek equilibrium.  This has left the downstream side of culverts “perched” (washed-out) which also creates erosion.  Some of these perched areas will need to be addressed.  Debris control measures currently used are leading to flooding when they get plugged.

Water Quality:  Dan calculated the sediment load delivered to the channel east of Patterson, at 400 cubic yards per year.  If the Sediment Basin were re-opened, it can hold approx 450 cu. yds/yr.  E-coli has been an ongoing problem for decades – and will probably require further studying, and investigation of several potential illicit connections from residences and outbuildings.

Recommendations:  Replace the Patterson Bridge.  Manage sediment and woody debris from Timber Creek Rd to Patterson.  Re-establish the Sediment Trap and add debris barriers.  Replace culverts at 1st St and Timber Creek (including the culverts for the Boot Lake Drain where it crosses under Timber Creek).  Investigate illicit connections (pipes) in upper Cuddy.  Dredge the full length of the channel.

Preliminary Costs: Naturally, all the prices that will be mentioned are “educated guesses” at this point.  The bidding process for actual construction has not started.  Much depends on the cooperation of Cuddy landowners and a place to put dredged sand.  The total cost of doing all the proposed projects could run from $800,000 to $1.25 million

Apportionment:  “Who pays for what” is still being formatted, based on who benefits the most; (or what point needs the most remediation).  Right now, the Patterson Bridge costs are theoretically being divided equally between the Barry(25%) and Allegan (25%) Road Commisssions, and the Barry (25%) and Allegan (25%) residents within the Cuddy Drain Assessment District.  Dredging the Channel would be 100% the responsibility of the Barry residents.  But since Patterson is used by a LOT more people than just the Cuddy residents – Mark Englerth would like to pursue supplemental funding possibilities, also?

Schedule:  In a best-case scenario; permits, studies and bids would be accepted during the Spring and Summer of 2014; and actual construction on the Patterson Bridge would begin after Labor Day; with final dredging occurring in late fall

Add-remove Lands:  The Cuddy Drainage Assessment area was originally defined in the 1950’s, using property lines as boundaries.  Since then, technology has enabled engineers to draw the actual drainage boundaries of the watershed; so some properties will be removed from the assessment district, and others will be added.  Dan has plotted on a map, which properties will be affected and they will be notified by the Drainage Board.

“Cost Menu”

Here is a rough breakdown of the costs for each project; and who will be tentatively paying for them:

Gardner Drain improvements  $50,000  (100% Allegan cost)

Cuddy Drain improvements west of Patterson  $125,000  (100% Allegan)

Dredging the Cuddy to 400′ east of Patterson  $175,000 (apportionment TBD)

Dredging the entire navigable Cuddy Channel  $250,000 (100% Barry) (This does NOT include the channel for Island Drive, which is not a part of the Cuddy System, although it was recommended that those residents arrange for dredging within the same time frame by the same service provider if they wish)

Sediment Basin (Sand & Debris Trap)  $70,000  (Allegan cost? or 50/50 split?)

1st St culvert  replacement: $250,000 (Covered by the Allegan County Road Commission)

Patterson Rd Bridge replacement:  $330,000  (50/50 split between county Rd Commissions and Drain Commissions)

Preliminary costs could run $800k to $1.25 million.  (The maintenance costs for the sand/debris trap should probably be added to the list)  None of these numbers are “etched in stone” and how the costs are apportioned is still being worked out.

The most important thing right now, is to get the word out to neighbors, to get involved and let their voices be heard,  in person at the Necessity Hearing on Feb 5th; or in writing to their Drain Commissioners and other elected representatives.  I personally feel like the Cuddy Intercounty Drainage Board has been listening to us and adding our goals to their project agenda.  They made it mandatory that the services of an Environmental Engineer (Aaron Snell of Streamside Services) be added as a consultant, to help deal with some of the problems the Cuddy residents have been dealing with.  Russ Yarger, Barry County Drain Commissioner, has attended every meeting and answered questions from the public.  And since the Cuddy Watershed is a tiny part of the Allegan/Barry drainage systems, it’s going to take some volunteer effort to monitor it and clean it up.  On the other hand, because it IS small – it should be relatively easy to do, and WE can do it!!