Saving The Lake

I haven’t forgotten about this blog….LOL! It’s just that everything seems to be humming along and there haven’t been any Cuddy Intercounty Drainage Board meetings.

Good news!
Russ Yarger mentioned that the Island Drive channel dredging permit application with the DEQ has been approved. What this means is that while the dredging equipment is on site for the Cuddy Channel – they will also do the Island Drive channel. Those residents will pay for their dredging; and the cost of having the equipment here at Gun Lake will be divided between the Island Dr and Cuddy channel residents. This saves both sides some money! A real win-win 🙂

Wednesday’s Dam Drama:
Around 7:30 AM on May 27th, a local resident noticed “a little geyser” at the base of the Gun Lake dam (the outlet for the lake and beginning of the Gun River); but didn’t report it. By 2 PM, it had grown big enough that Mrs Moffat, owner of the laundromat next to the dam, called the DEQ. They mulled over the possibilities from afar, and then called the Sewer Authority in case it was a sewer leak. I’m told that Bob Monroe, plant manager, drove over and recognized what was happening – it was after 3 PM by the time Russ Yarger was alerted to the problem. (The dam is actually under the supervision of the Barry Co. Drain Commissioner)

As I headed home at 6 PM, I noticed Tammy Berdecia (Deputy Drain Commissioner) standing by the dam – then I saw what she was looking at. YIKES!!! By then, there was a 30′ line of “suction” on the upstream side; and a huge boil of upwelling water at least 10′ across and 9″ high on the downstream side (I drew a circle around those points). It was clear that water had breached the dam.  About 5 minutes later, the Barry County Road Commission trucks and crew began rolling in.



I saw the blueprints of the dam, many years ago.  Here’s the world’s crudest diagram of what happened:


There are big steel posts driven way down into the earth; then maybe 6′ of concrete wall was poured over those posts.  Of course we only see the top 2′ of that wall.  Water somehow worked its way under that concrete wall.  In spite of some poor reporting on the part of a GR TV station <rolling my eyes> the dam is fine, and not near as old as reported.  I’m fairly certain the blueprints were from the mid-40’s.  The big problem was that water was going under the dam; and if it scoured deep and wide enough – it could loosen the whole structure eventually?  Which of course would be catastrophic: it would have taken out Marsh Rd and flooded homes and farms downstream.

So the task was: fill the hole.  Sounds fairly easy, until you remember that the dam is a LONG reach from the road; plus there are power and cable lines overhead….  The solution was to build a rock “pier” into the pond area below the dam.  There were loads and LOADS of rocks and boulders involved in this


To protect the workers, Consumers cut the power to the overhead lines, re-routed the electric, and then covered the lines, just in case…


Unfortunately, Charter Cable wasn’t willing to raise the cable line, which is the lowest line to start with.  Seeing that the big efficient excavator would catch the cable line, the Road Commission brought in a smaller excavator.  Slower, but God forbid anyone would lose their TV reception 😉


There was a Conga-line of dumptrucks bringing fill: a huge thanks to the Lettingas, who provided the beachball-sized boulders from their farm; and another gravel pit that remained open for smaller rocks.

Eventually, as the gaping hole was filled with big boulders and smaller rocks, a massive sheet of fabric underlayment was draped across the front of the dam, and then more rocks placed over that.  By this time, the Barry County Emergency Services had supplied light for the worksite; the Fire Department was directing traffic; and the Yankee Springs Water Rescue team was there to help, too.  It DOES take a Village.








Finally,  this is what the new and improved dam looks like (as seen the next morning).  The concrete structure is braced front and back by hundreds-of-thousands of pounds of rocks.  The crew also built little rock diversions to move water towards the center of the culverts.  This road crossing is getting fragile, and will need to be replaced soon – but we’d rather have it done quickly, as part of a project – than to scramble and detour for months because it washed out.  If you see someone playing on the rocks – yell at them to get away from it!


Kudos to our Drain Commissioner Russ Yarger, and the Barry Road Commission for their fast action; and an appreciative pat on the back to the workers who had already put in a day’s work – only to be asked to continue to work past midnight.  If everyone had waited until the next day, when it would have been more convenient, my story about this might have been much worse….