Our Beautiful, Clean Gun Lake!

On June 19th, the GLPA (Gun Lake Protective Association) had Joel Steenstra from Summit Laboratory, LLC, do some random water quality testing around the lake.

Here are the locations and the e-coli counts (anything over 300 is considered “no body contact”)

Fawn Lake Inlet 4
Trail’s End 3
Long Lake Inlet 6
Streeter’s Landing 6
New State Park Beach 6
Old State Park Beach <1
Campground Beach (YSSP) 16
Cuddy Drain @ Robbin's Bay 6
Halfway up Cuddy 108
Cuddy @ Patterson Rd 921**
Payne Lake inlet 387
Allegan Co Park 36

**I got a reading of 700 on Monday June 16th on the upstream side of the culvert, after a long dry spell. We received about an inch of rain on the 18th; these samples reflect a high-rain value on the 19th. I'm going to guess the upstream side would have been twice this high?

All in all, our lake is pristine. The slightly elevated level at Payne Lake could just be due to waterfowl in the wetlands area – this is normally not an area of concern, but we'll test it again in a month or so.

“Progress Meeting” July 10th

I was glad to see how many residents showed up in spite of the last-minute notice and the fact that it was held at 10 AM on a weekday. MDARD only needs to give an 18-hour notice; but Dan Fredricks, Head Engineer from Land & Resource Engineering, said he’d try to give me a head’s up before the next meeting 🙂

The exciting stuff:

Dan did a Bathymetric Survey of the Cuddy Channel (basically mapped in 3-D, what lies under the water). The solid ground/base of the channel lies about 4-1/2 feet below the surface of the water; and what lies above that is about 90% fine, granular sand. He tested the sediment in 7 different places; and lab testing found nothing scary (YAY!) – it’s simply sandy sediment that can be disposed of, without special provisions.

The survey also showed that the biggest mass of sand, near the Patterson Bridge, only extends 250′ east of the bridge, so the dredging allocation/assessment for Allegan County has been amended to reflect that.

Aaron Snell, Streamside Ecological Services, is putting together an application for a State Grant, to further study the e-coli in the Cuddy. Next step is setting up a stream-flow monitoring system, which I will (happily!) be helping him with.

The Island Dr channel will be added to the dredging portion of the project – not because it’s part of the Cuddy Drain, but because the residents have requested it; and there would be some economies-of-scale involved in dredging both channels at the same time. The costs for that will be kept as a separate item, in case the residents don’t wish to spend that money at this time. The costs involved with dredging both channels to regain navigability, will be on the shoulders of the residents of those channels. When the dredging is finished, the channels will be 4′ deep, with a 20′-wide bottom; tapering up to about a 2′ water depth at the sides.

The Timeline

The entire project is moving along nicely – but not as fast as first hoped? Right now, it looks like some construction on the Upper Cuddy (stabilizing stream banks/replacing culverts) will begin this fall; but Dan said the Patterson Bridge replacement probably won’t happen until 2015. To my knowledge, the replacement of the 1st St culverts is still scheduled for THIS year?

Apportionment (Who Pays For What)

This (granted, massive) project has been broken into different sections. Dan, with the wisdom of Solomon, has looked at each section and determined WHO gets the most benefit from it. So the replacement of the Patterson Bridge cost, plus costs related to digging a Sediment Basin and dredging disposal, and the reduction of e-coli, are split 50/50 between Allegan and Barry Counties. Dredging the massive amount of sand at the Patterson Bridge, extending 250′ east, is 100% Allegan’s cost, since this is blocking the drainage from their side. Dredging beyond that point is 100% Barry’s cost. Allegan will pay for repairs to stabilize the drain on the west side of Patterson, primarily from 1st St to Timber Creek, where the most erosion is happening.

Russ Yarger (Barry Co Drain Commissioner) and Denise Medemar (Allegan Co Drain Commissioner) wanted to discuss these apportionments a bit further, before they became “etched in stone”. While the suggested ratios seem fair to me, other, “historical” formulas have been used in the past regarding Intercounty Drain work. It’s up to the Commissioners (plus the 2 Road Commissions) to haggle this out.

Costs

Yeah – this is what everyone wants to know! The good news: so far, Dan Fredrick’s projected costs have been wonderfully close to the bids now coming in!! Yes, this is a bridge replacement project that grew into a monster. But the folks who live along the Cuddy Channel need to remember: once the Patterson Bridge is replaced with a 16′ wide box culvert per the DEQ, there will be NOTHING stopping the sediment and debris that will surely be coming down the drain. The Upper Channel is practically un-navigable now – you don’t really think replacing a massive bridge won’t add a little sand, do you??? This entire project has embraced the goals put forth by the Friends of the Cuddy Drain, to remediate the problems that have plagued us for decades. Many Cuddy Channel residents have attended these meetings and stepped up and said “I’m willing to pay the extra cost of fixing the problems”

So there’s my rah-rah portion of the issue.

Right now the total cost of the project is $915,600.00 (but bids are still coming in). Dan added a 10% contingency cost, because nothing ever goes quite the way we plan. That brings the cost of the project to $1,007,160.00. We still need to procure a place to put the dredged soil, so that will add to the cost.

Someone in the audience asked for a ballpark figure, for the assessment per home. Keeping in mind that these numbers are fluid; and drain assessments are based on a rather complicated formula, Dan just did some quick math in his head and said “$3000.00 per home”. Do keep in mind that this cost will be spread over a longer period of time – perhaps 10 years? Do keep in mind that there are other entities who can step in and alleviate some of that financial burden, like the Townships, the Road Commissions – even the Casino had offered a bit of help. And the financial burden won’t be distributed evenly – the person who lives on 1st St will NOT be paying to dredge the navigable channel, for example. But at least it gives us a starting point.

Dredging

The expected cost of dredging the navigable channels (Cuddy and Island) is $340,000.00. Dan says 14,000 cubic yards of sediment need to be removed to restore the channel to its original depth; that’s a little over $24/cu yd, Unfortunately, the system we need to use, hydraulic dredging, is expensive. It’s the price we get to pay for building home and decks and adding landscaping to our lovely properties: we can no longer simply drive a steamshovel along the banks to clear the sediment. The sand will be sucked from the floor of the channel using pumps mounted on a barge, and pumped to a disposal site. The good news: in the future, the heavier sand and much of the finer sand, will be dropped out into the Sediment Basin, where it can periodically be cleaned out using a land-based excavator for about 80% less cost than hydraulic dredging.

So what do you do with 14,000 cubic yards of sand? The disposal site needs to be close to the Cuddy: pumping over 1/2 mile (I think that was the distance?) adds another $140,000.00 cost to the dredging expense. The good news: our soil is sandy – the dredged sand will dry quickly. Depending on the property, it could be made into a park, or a soccer field; given away as fill. Every effort will be made to make it an attractive place; ideally, with a little bit of shrubbery/trees, nobody will even know it’s there. How much is 14,000 cu yds? Picture 2 football fields covered 3′ deep.

Personally – I’d rather have a ski hill…!