Gun River (Dam) Intercounty Drain meeting June 22


I’m just going to add info about the replacement of the Gun Lake Dam (and at the same time, presumably Marsh Rd where it crosses the river) on this blog. Partly because I don’t want to set up a whole new blog; partly because we’re all in this Gun Lake thing together; and partly because the lucky people on the Cuddy Channel are potentially going to get whacked with another drain assessment. Lucky them – at least THIS time they have a thousand-plus homes to share the burden.

So welcome to the Gun River Intercounty Drain Drainage Board!  Same people involved that serve on the Cuddy ICDDB: Russ Yarger, Denise Medemar, Brady Harrington.  Lots of folks were in attendance; residents, Engineers, Road Commission folks.

Here are some fun facts about our dam:

The first evidence of it shows up in records from 1905, as an earthen dam.  It seems the height was raised, lowered, or obliterated with dynamite (!) through a couple of decades.  At some point, a Court Injunction was imposed; and in 1921, the legal lake level was defined as 744.32′ above sea level and set by Statute (now that would be known as the “Lake Level Control Act”).  In 1951, the current concrete dam was constructed, under the auspices of the Intercounty Drain Board; but through the years, various entities have paid for maintenance on it, including the work done in 2013 (paid for, in part, by Orangeville and Yankee Springs Townships?)  The Gun River ICDDB has a separate financial account for the dam; yet their records seem to show their first upstream road crossing as Patterson – NOT Marsh Rd.  It’s a “Section 301” dam, meaning it controls lake levels, but still might need approval by the “Dam Safety” group who oversees “Section 307” dams…

Are you confused yet?  Everyone is!  The first question that needs to be answered:  WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DAM????  The end answer is “Russ Yarger” – but as the “head of the Barry Drain Commission”; or as a “member of the Gun Ruver ICDDB”?  A law firm who specializes in these things will be consulted to go through old Circuit Court proceedings, to see if they can find the answer.  Why do we care?  If it’s part of the Gun River ICDDB, we cast a wider net for drain assessments, potentially?  The dam doesn’t affect just Gun Lake – Payne Lake and Long Lake (and possibly more lakes upstream) would also have drained, had the dam completely failed.  A gentleman representing the Payne Lake Association was in attendance, seeking information on erecting a temporary dam for their lake, in case the main dam failed.  Unfortunately, they would have to have their lake level set by the Circuit Court, for starters….  I understand their concern.  Nobody wants to look out over an expanse of mud where a beautiful lake once stood.

BUT – at the moment, there are 200 TONS of rock holding the dam securely in place.  There’s only a few inches of concrete exposed.  It’s rather pretty, I think?  And SOLID.  I suspect Gun Lake will breach Marsh Rd before it goes through the dam with all its rocks?  I think there’s plenty of time to get the proper answers; and then decide what to do with it.


Cuddy Drain Meeting June 22, 2015

A few things that were covered in today’s meeting of the Intercounty Drain Drainage Board:

Aaron Snell (Streamside Ecological Services) recapped last August’s 5-week e-coli testing, which showed the Cuddy’s numbers still exceeded the limits for body contact. His numbers follow the protocol set by the State, using the “Geometric Mean” of 3 samples taken at each location, and also figure in the flow rate of the water at that time.  Why do we care?  We now have an “Official Data Set” that the State DEQ will accept as proof positive that the Cuddy has an e-coli problem.  Somebody could take this to the State and apply for a Grant to pay for further study: the first question we would like answered is “Whose poo is it?”.  Believe it or not, the e-coli can be DNA-tested, to determine if it came from humans (failed septic?), cattle (manure runoff?), deer, ducks, etc.  Of course, that’s not cheap….

(The Allegan County Health Dep’t DID follow up on the mystery pipes found emptying into the Cuddy, north of M-179; and found nothing of significance)

Aaron sought CIDD Board approval to submit the info to the DEQ.  I raised my hand, and mentioned that as a member of the Gun Lake Protective Ass’n, I wasn’t sure I wanted the Cuddy “officially tagged” as a source of pollution, thinking of the impact it might have on property values?  But it was pointed out that the e-coli problems the State Park had a few years ago are also part of the Public Record for Gun Lake; so the Board voted to have Aaron submit the data.

Dan Fredricks, Project Engineer, has broken the the construction and improvements into 2 contracts for bidding purposes:

Contract #1 is basically replacing the bridge at Patterson; and improvements made to the west in Allegan County.  This would include re-establishing the Sedimentation Basin (Sand Trap) and installing a debris barrier; replacing the culverts on Timber Creek (plus one or two on private land upstream); stabilizing the stream banks to slow erosion; adding gravel to stop the bottom from being cut deeper; plus a bunch of other remediation processes.  Don’t forget that sewer lines, fiber-optic cable, and gas lines run under that bridge, too.

Contract #2 is basically dredging the Cuddy Channel after all the other construction has finished.  While this sounds pretty straightforward, there’s still a LOT of things to consider.  The original bottom will be restored; but not cut deeper so that seawalls are properly supported.  There’s a HUGE gas/oil line (currently unused) that runs under the channel, about 70′ east of Patterson.  Turbidity curtains will be installed to cut down on silt carried to the lake.  Land has been leased; some temporarily and some permanently, to put the dredged sand upon.

COSTS:   The entire project, before bids have been taken, is estimated to cost around $1.2 million.  Allegan County will pay 40%; Barry will pay 60%.  The two Drain Commissioners have agreed to the apportionments for each detail – I’ll add those later.  They are pretty much what has been agreed-upon all along: whoever benefits the most from an item (or is the party who created the problem) gets to pay.  There are other entities who will be paying part of this tab, like Townships and Road Commissions (The Allegan Road Commission has agreed to pay for half of the bridge cost*!  Yay!  C’mon Barry County RC – step up and do the same!!)  Mark Englerth, Yankee Springs Supervisor, asked Russ Yarger to make an educated guess, (based on the projected costs) what each homeowner will be assessed.  Russ said he’d have some rough numbers for the next meeting.  And the cost-per-year will depend on how many years that assessment is set for  (Denise said 15 years was “average” for a project like this).

TIMELINE:  The project is running a tad bit slow.  There are still some permits that need to be secured; and some questions that need to be answered, like “Did the old Sediment Trap ever have a DEQ permit?”  Then bids need to be solicited for doing the construction.  Right now, the hope is to replace the Patterson Bridge late this fall or early winter (definitely before Memorial Day 2016); and do the dredging late summer of 2016.

ADDING HOMES:  It was determined that the housing development behind McDonald’s/Pennock’s medical offices has an overflow tube from their retention pond, to the Cuddy Channel (and it’s putting sediment into the channel according to eyewitnesses – there may be a problem along its path?).  Those homes will be added to the Drain Assessment rolls.

The next meeting date will be set after all the permits are obtained.


*I previously had (clumsily) written “agreed to pay half of their share”, which actually made them look kind of cheap – when the truth is, they stepped up and took a BIG burden off their taxpayers’ shoulders by paying the entire tab for Allegan County’s half of the bridge cost.  Kudos to the ARC!!!!

Lake Water Tests June 17th

We went to 17 Gun Lake locations and took water samples. The spots were chosen either due to previous e-coli readings, the likelihood of it bringing e-coli into the lake (creek outlets); or by the density of use. The 3M Petrifilms I use for testing aren’t quite as specific as Lab tests – but they do a great job of showing where the e-coli might be.

The locations and results (CFUs = Colony Forming Units per 100 ml of water):

Allegan County Park – 100 CFUs
Pickeral Cove near Marsh Rd – zero
England Point Resort – 100 CFUs
“Horse Farm” creek – zero
Fawn Lake Outlet – zero
Creek at Trail’s End – zero
Long Lake Culvert – zero
Roosevelt Beach @ State Park – zero
“Old Beach” @ S end of State Park – zero
Main Beach @ State Park – zero
Campground beach @ State Park – zero
Cuddy Drain @ mouth of Robbin’s Bay – 150 CFUs*
Cuddy @ Condos (midpoint) – 350 CFUs*
Cuddy @ Patterson Bridge – 300 CFUs*
Payne Lake outlet @ Channel – zero
Shady Shores north side – zero
Whispering Pines/Oak Grove – zero

*These are good numbers for the Cuddy, considering all the recent rain!

Once again – we have a beautiful and very clean lake!

Quickie Water Test has good results!

I had hoped to collect a few water samples before and after a hard rain (the latter can tell us if there’s a runoff problem) – but Mother Nature didn’t deliver the rain.     sigh.

But the tests I incubated showed a reasonably-clean Cuddy Drain!  Once again, no manure has been spread in the Cuddy Watershed this spring; and the numbers are good.  Not “squeaky-clean” – but I suspect that no Ag Drain ever is?

The e-coli numbers:
M-179 where it crosses the Cuddy: 150 CFUs
First Street crossing (combined Cuddy/Tawsley/Boot drains): 400 CFUs
Patterson Rd crossing (same drains): 450 CFUs

(These might be the lowest values I’ve seen since I started testing the water?  YAY!!!)

Anything above 300 CFUs (“Colony-Forming Units”) is considered “No Body Contact”.  Tests in 2013, for example, had results in the 2000+ CFU range.  My experience is that when the Cuddy Drain meets up with the Cuddy Channel, the CFUs get diluted, sometimes halving the count. Assuming that would be the case, the Cuddy Channel should be safe* for recreation – but before you send your kids out there to swim – I’ll feel better once the mid and lower channel is tested by Summit Labs, which should happen soon.

*Disclaimer: there’s a lot of muck out there – and we don’t know what lurks therein.  Hopefully, the worst that could happen is you get stuck in the mud….