More Heroes – and a plea.

After talking to Aaron Snell of Streamside Ecological Services yesterday (Mon 11/24), I drove over to Patterson to see how all the snow melting and rain over the weekend had affected the Cuddy Drain.



The pile of debris at the center of the “cowcatcher” was backing up the water and diverting it around the culverts, so that it was chewing at the sides of the stream, not flowing nicely through.  Water had already overflowed into the backyard of the yellow house a bit.  (This is Greg Purcell’s photo from early this morning and it’s already over the bank on the south side)

I sent off some late-night emails:  This morning I received a reply from Barry County Deputy Drain Commissioner Tammy Berdecia, that she had emailed Brent Scholten of the Allegan County Road Commission and he was already aware of the problem.  Some time between Greg’s picture and my return trip there at 11 AM, the ARC folks had cleared the debris and the stream was starting to drop!!  Granted, the Patterson road crossing has withstood worse assaults; but there’s no sense in aggravating the situation.  Thank you to Tammy and Brent for being Johnny-on-the-spot!

Now, the plea: in spite of opinions to the contrary – I (Deb) am NOT this stream’s “mommy”; and Brent Scholten has an entire county’s-worth of roads to worry about.  Since most of you reading this will be the most adversely-affected if this road washes out before everything is set to replace it, I’m asking you to keep an eye on this sort of thing for ALL of our sakes?  As you drive by (especially southbound) – just glance over and see if the cowcatcher is full of debris.  A little bit is OK – we just don’t  want so much that it diverts the flow.  If you see a problem, you can let me know; or any of the Drain Commissioners; or the Allegan Road Commission.

Thanks, everyone!


The Ticking Time Bomb Has Been Defused!

Another title could have been “Rip-Rap Is Our Friend!”.  After the Cuddy Intercounty Drainage Board meeting (where once again, they listened to our voices and voted accordingly – more on that in a bit) – I drove over to see the 1st St bridge replacement – the site I had previously labeled a “Ticking Time Bomb” since we were one epic rainfall away from another huge washout and loads of sediment coming down the drain.

It went from this:

The death of 1st St

The death of 1st St

To this:


To THIS!!!!!!!!

NewFirst-3I am standing on the west side of 1st St looking south to where the Tawsley Drain ties into the Cuddy drain at the culvert.  The Tawsley has been slightly re-routed, to protect the new bridge; and where the water could scour/erode, rip-rap (basically, large jagged rocks) has been added.


NewFirst-2This is the opposite view, looking back at the Tawsley where it comes into the Cuddy, and the new 16′-wide concrete bridge.  (This is the same bridge that will be installed at the Patterson crossing).  This used to be a giant sand-hole;  now the banks are stabilized with rip-rap – and for the FIRST TIME EVER at this site, I can see small gravel in the Cuddy bottom!!!  That may sound stupid – but it means it’s NOT eroding!!!!!  I also had a quick chat with the nice man running that excavator – he was placing rip-rap along that bank as precisely as if he were picking up pebbles with his fingers 🙂  He had given me a quizzical look – like “why are you taking pictures?” – and I told him I LOVED how this looked and that I was with the Friends of the Cuddy Drain.  I’m sure he thought “the Cuddy has friends??” – but he smiled and said that as they were excavating the area to place the  bridge; and then covering the bridge base with  rocks, they kept opening up springs!  Granted, I’m sure that was a pain in the backside for the crew – but it’s an added bonus for those of us who would like to see the e-coli levels go down.  Flushing a bunch of ice-cold, clean water into the Cuddy is only going to help.


This is what the downstream side looked like in April 2013: two high-powered water jets scouring a massive hole in the bottom and chewing away at the sides.  They call that process “perching” – and 1st St was heavily perched.

Looking downstream at 1st St

Looking downstream at 1st St

NewFirst -1And this tidy scene is what it looks like now!!  The giant scour-hole has been filled; and the banks narrowed and reinforced with rip-rap.  The beauty of this bridge is that the water never changes in velocity.  It simply flows from one side to the other.  What isn’t rip-rap has been secured with mesh that will allow grass and plants to grow.  Is this beautiful or what?? 🙂

A Wonderful Public Meeting!

Once again, Mark Englerth needed/wanted input from the Cuddy Channel residents, so he held a special meeting last night at the Yankee Springs Township Hall. Dan Fredricks, from Land & Resource Engineering gave a great presentation; Russ Yarger, Barry County Drain Commissioner was there to answer questions, plus a few other YS Township Board members were in attendance (greatly appreciated!). I didn’t do a head count – but we had to keep setting up more chairs – the turnout was great! And better yet, questions were asked and answered as clearly as possible, from both the audience and Project Managers’ sides. And while nobody is happy about paying for part of a bridge, and the cost of dredging the channel is quite frankly, staggering….. the comments were polite 🙂

The questions that needed Channel Resident input:

#1: Do the residents want the Cuddy Channel dredged after the bridge is replaced, even though the price tag is north of $250,000?

The answer, by a show of hands: a resounding, 100% YES. There were a few financing options discussed; and Russ felt the cost could be spread over a 10-year period. The audience members were good with that.

There was some discussion about poorly-done dredging that had taken place in the mid-80’s.  Dan assured us that with today’s modern technology; the ability to map the bottom of the channel using bathymetrics and GPS; and the requirement that any dredger bidding on the project will be required to post a Performance Bond and be insured – that we will get what we pay for.  The dredging will re-open the channel to its original 5′ depth with a 20′ width at the center, tapering up to the sides.  Very tentatively, this could take place next summer or fall, after the Patterson Bridge replacement has been done.  One thing that was pointed out: doing a good job of dredging (getting our money’s worth!) will require boat lifts and docks be removed.  Yeah – sorry about that 😦  If you have a boat “inlet” that’s filling up – you might contact Mark Englerth for some suggestions on how to lower your sediment levels before the dredgers come through.

Since the answer to #1 was yes, that brought us to Question #2. Removing 8500 cubic yards of sediment from the Cuddy Channel, 500 cubic yards from re-opening the Sand Trap; and possibly adding another 4000 cubic yards from the Island Dr Channel means that we need somewhere to put a LOT of sand. Mark Englerth, Dan, and the Intercounty Drainage Board came up with 3 options. Each option was discussed, and the audience voted unanimously to go with Option C: an easement granted by Pam Van Denack, who owns property adjacent to the Sand Trap (where ongoing maintenance will be needed). The channel dredging spoils will need to be pumped farther upstream, so there was some extra cost in doing that – but overall, it was the least expensive option. Thank you, Mrs Van Denack!!

Question #3 went un-answered because there was only one residence represented in the audience: Do the residents who use the Island Drive Channel wish to have their channel dredged? There are some economies-of-scale for them to dredge at the same time as the Cuddy Channel, since the equipment would already be in place and they would get assistance in obtaining permits, etc. There would also be a small savings to the Cuddy residents, since the Island Drive group would bear some of the mobilization costs (getting to the site and setting up the system). Dan estimated a cost for dredging the Island Dr channel to be between $175k to $200k. IF they wish to join the project, they need to request that soon.

Keep in mind that just because 100% of the sizable audience voted yes to dredging and utilizing the Van Denack property – doesn’t mean it’s a “sure thing”. The Cuddy Intercounty Drainage Board can pretty much do what they want. The good news: the 3 principals of that Board, Russ Yarger, Barry Drain Commissioner; Denise Medemar, Allegan Drain Commissioner; and Brady Harrington, MI Dep’t of Ag – have all listened to our suggestions and adopted our proposed goals over the course of this project. I feel fairly certain that they will listen to our voices once again, at the CIDB meeting Friday morning at 10 am at the Yankee Springs Township Hall.