Progress on the Cuddy 10/27/16

Christian Yonkers, a reporter for the J-Ad family of local newspapers, visited with Mark Englerth, Deb Mousseau (from Yankee Springs Twp), Chad Mencarelli (Project Manager), and myself as we toured the Cuddy and looked at the progress so far! I snapped a few photos; so here’s my update (and I’m excited to see Christian’s story – this project is really an amazing example of cooperation between citizens and the local government!):

bridge1 It’s hard to see, but the new, longer, light-green gas line is suspended and protected by a huge I-beam; and the first of the downstream support beams have been driven into the channel, getting ready for the new bridge.


bridge2Downstream, the Island Dr channel has been rough-dredged; and at the moment, they are working on the lower Cuddy near the marina, because the tugboat has an mechanical issue.  They’re moving the bathtub that hauls the sediment, with the excavators!  (I’m just blown away by what those massive machines can delicately do!)

bridge3(Sorry about the blurry picture)  This is the downstream end of the Sedimentation Basin – it’s defined by a weir that will keep the creek from “Head cutting” (washing out the downstream side until the bottoms are equal).  It’s deep on the right; then the normal shallow depth for the creek on the left.  The banks on both sides of this basin will be shored-up with rip-rap.  Trees were cut to create the access road; and while I hate to lose trees – the added sunlight should help reduce any e-coli lurking about, and that was always one of the long-term goals!

bridge4This is the rip-rap, otherwise known as big rocks.  It prevents erosion; and once grown over with vegetation, is hardly noticeable.  Now that the Sedimentation Basin is in place, it will catch any sand that washes down from upstream mediation along Timber Creek Dr, which is heavily eroded.  That area too, will get rip-rapped.  Another long-term goal met!

I forgot to take a picture of the debris barrier (a simple-but-solid vertical grate protected by more rip-rap) – it is positioned about 50 yards upstream from the Patterson Bridge, so should be easy to monitor (and clear) from the easement road created on the south side of the Cuddy.  Yet another long-term goal met!

I think it’s exciting, to see all the goals, ideas, and drawings from the last 3 years, finally turned into reality!


The Dam, the Bridge, and Google Earth

Burn these images into your brain:


During the search for “Who Owns The Dam”? – it was brought up several times by a few different entities that the Gun River Inter-County Drain (GRICD) runs south from Patterson Rd – NOT from the dam.  The stretch from the dam to Patterson is simply the Gun River.  It’s squiggly (blue line, and lies in Barry County) – not nice and straight like a county drain (orange line, and lies in Allegan County)

Furthermore, thanks to the amazing ability of Google Earth to turn back time – this next image (that I have used countless times for research on the Cuddy) after a fresh snowfall in March 2010, clearly shows ALL standing water in ditches, drains, creeks, etc.  And it shows that the nearby fields (tinted yellow) are drained into the GRICD just south of Patterson.  Of course they drain there – the Allegan Drain Commission has control over that stretch.


Why is this important?  The culverts under Marsh Road that carry the Gun River have deteriorated and need to be replaced.  It only makes sense to include that as part of the dam replacement project.  Right now, the Barry County Rd Commission would have to pay for the new bridge; and the watershed residents will be assessed a portion of the dam replacement cost.  That’s only fair; the dam benefits every single one of us.  But if the blue stretch of the river is annexed onto the GRICD – then we have a bridge-over-a-drain situation again; and the watershed residents will be assessed for a bridge replacement, too.  Ask any Cuddy Drain resident how much fun it is to pay for even a part of a bridge,  (they were assessed for a portion of the new one on Patterson)….. <insert frowny face>

I’m not implying that this will happen.  I’ll bet about 1600 property owners hope it doesn’t.  But I have seen time and time again, that some of our elected folks on the Barry Board of Commissioners, really don’t want to own the problem of replacing THEIR dam; and the Barry Road Commission likely doesn’t have the money for the bridge (we don’t pay a Road Millage in Barry County).  Annexing that quarter-mile stretch of the Gun River onto the GRICD would be a win-win for the County and Road Commission – and a big “You’re Screwed” for the residents of Gun Lake.

In my opinion, residents paying for ONE HEAVILY-USED BRIDGE was enough.

More Dredging Details, and Apology

First the apology from me – I completely missed the notice for the Cuddy Drain Meeting this morning . If anyone reading this was there, could you add comments at the end of this post?

Yesterday, Greg, Greg, Pat, Todd, and I, all met with Chad Mencarelli, the on-site project manager for Land & Resource Engineering (LRE). We also briefly met Neil, who skillfully runs both massive excavators. We discussed how there had been some changes to the plans that we “Cuddy Friends” had been shown, so Chad went over the reasons and details.

Most of us remembered that dredging was proposed to come within 2′ of the seawalls; but the revised plan called for a 5′ distance. Understandably, the dredging contractor is concerned about liability – specifically that a few “elderly” seawalls/docks might collapse? But Chad said he’d talk to Dan Fredricks, LRE and Jim from Gro America on our behalf.

About 7:30 last night, Chad called me (obviously still working – what a guy!) and said that Gro America would move in a bit closer and dredge between 3 and 4′ out from the seawalls. If there was a particularly-shaky looking structure, they might ask for a waiver of liability to be signed by the property owner before they got too close – they will draw some sort of contract up for that. That seems like a good compromise, since a few folks are planning to redo their seawalls after this project is done, and shouldn’t be penalized by having less dredging done due to their “old” seawall.

So for the moment, dredging is still being done simply to navigate the barges back and forth along the Island Dr channel – “finish dredging” will come later.  Chad is using some pretty sophisticated-looking technology, to make sure the proper depth/width is being dug – he’s the guy in the orange vest and hardhat buzzing around in the little green jonboat.  Wave at him – he’s a really nice guy!!

As an aside – yes, they are muddying up the water as they dredge.  Yes, some silt/sediment will sink back in place.  Yes, the people downstream are going to see murky water.  Please be patient.

Lastly – if you have a LOT of sediment at your seawall (or if you didn’t move your boat lift – tsk!) – you DO have the right to rake it/push it/shovel it, towards the center of the channel BEFORE the dredger gets to your house and disposes of it.  But for cryin’ out loud – DON’T do that after they’re done.

Dredging Details

Just a quick note: there was concern by some residents that the dredgers weren’t “dredging as planned” – but an email from Dan Fredricks said that they are first opening up the center of the channel, simply for barge navigation purposes. Once they can move freely around, they will go back and do the “fine dredging” along the edges, etc.

Gas Problems….Uh-Oh!

No – not your tummy. The natural gas line that goes up and over the Patterson Bridge culverts, is a bit too short across the top to match the 16′ width of the concrete replacement bridge. Consumers Power has decided to create a tunnel for it that goes UNDER the new bridge – but that’s going to add a couple of weeks to the time schedule.  Sorry.



Construction Has Begun!! (Photos)

Today I grabbed the camera and drove to various sites, to see what was happening….

Unless your car can leap tall cranes – Patterson Rd is absolutely closed!


A closer look shows the roadway is gone; and the yellow/black natural gas line angles up and over the culverts – Millbocker & Sons have been busy!


(They were NOT using the heavy equipment at the moment, so I had permission to take photos.  Don’t walk up this close to the bridge site when they’re working!)

Down the road a bit, the dredging is taking place!  GRO America has two long-reach excavators: the yellow one dredges sediment off the bottom of the channel (Island Dr is being dredged first) and puts it into the gray “bathtub” (I’m sure it has a more official name) – and then the red Baby Tugboat pushes the bathtub over to be unloaded by the gray excavator.




While at the marina dredging site, I met Chad from Land and Resources Engineering (he will be the Project Supervisor).  He said he had been “warned” that I’d show up sooner or later….LOL! and he also mentioned that Millbocker was clearing a path to access the Sedimentation Basin; so that should be opened soon!!

The view from the new bridge at 1st St, looking towards the east:



Zooming in shows the excavator clearing a road.  The reopened Sedimentation Basin should catch anything kicked loose as upstream culvert replacement and remediation on the Cuddy is done.  It should also help reduce e-coli by exposing it to sunlight?

And this is a picture of how pretty last year’s 1st St bridge replacement and remediation has turned out – this is a very healthy-looking gravel-bottomed stream (unlike the sand-choked, eroded mess it used to be).  Looking west: