“Innovation and Excellence” : Cuddy Update

Left to right: Chad Mencarelli. Project Manager w/LRE;  Brent Scholten, Allegan Maintenance Engineer; Denise Medemar, Allegan Drain Commissioner; Dan Fredricks, VP and Project Designer/Manager w/LRE;  Jim Dull, Barry Drain Commissioner; and Deb Masselink, Rich Beukema, and Greg Purcell of the Friends of the Cuddy Drain  (*)


Thursday October 12th, several of us met once again at our beloved Cuddy Drain.  The entire project is being submitted to the Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners – who will pick one project to win an “Innovation and Excellence Award”!!  Of course, we “Friends of the Cuddy Drain” feel it’s a shoo-in, but it would be nice if our Drain Commissioners were to win this accolade – a lot of time and effort went into it.  For the 3+ years of this project, Denise Medemar, Russ Yarger; and later Jim Dull; have consistently listened to and respected the voices of the residents.  Dan Fredricks designed a plan that finally solved the issues that had plagued Cuddy residents for decades, and his design turned a flood-prone, silt-laden, drain-filled-with-pathogens into the crystal-clear and safe body of water that we see today.  Chad Mencarelli was on-site during the construction, and Brent Scholten keeps everything running smoothly.  The Cuddy residents told the commissioners they were prepared to pay the (admittedly-steep) assessment as long as the “job was done right”.  And it was – all our original remediation goals were met.

All of the above still strikes me as amazing

*Absent from photo: Mark Englerth, Yankee Springs Supervisor who facilitated countless meetings between the Drain Commissioners and the residents, giving everyone a voice in the project.


I have to add a PS: on October 14th and overnight into the 15th, we received 6.75″ of rain, twice the amount that triggered the Great Cuddy Flood of 2013.  When I drove past the Cuddy on the 15th, it was happily burbling along.  No flood, no silt, no debris, no drama.


The Cuddy – Before and After

I put this together to show another group – I know it’s crude, but I’m not a Powerpoint sort of girl (heck – I did my chemistry calculations on a slide rule!). It was amazing to see the difference between “before” and “after”! Yes, some of the pictures are from the Great Flood of 2013, when we received 3.3″ of rain in a 2-day event; ironically, we received a similar amount this past June, and the newly-renovated Cuddy handled it like a champ!  How soon we forget what a raging, moody thing the Cuddy used to be….. or the scary amount of erosion that happened.

At 1st St, where there were elevation changes, rock “riffles” stopped the cutting-away of the stream floor; and rip-rap stabilized the banks.  The “perched” area where the banks eroded downstream of the 1st St bridge, used to extend all the way to the right side of the last photograph.

Now the Cuddy is just a happy, burbling stream with a nice gravel bottom – until it hits the deep Sedimentation Basin, where it slows down and lets any suspended sand, etc fall out.  The little dam at the end keeps the sediment in place; and the Cuddy turns back into its happy little self again downstream.


The amount of debris that washed down was staggering – the old barrier stopped a lot; but was hard to clean.  The new debris barrier is simple and easy; and accessible from its very own (private) road.


Timber Creek’s 2 drain crossings were a nightmare of perching, erosion, and worn-out culverts.  The whole area was so overgrown that you couldn’t even see the water – I had to find the culverts by listening for them.  Now the protective shade that e-coli loves, is missing in many places; and the overhanging trees and shrubs, while pretty, added a lot of unwanted nutrients to the water

And one last look at the headaches the Cuddy brought on a too-regular basis:

This has been an amazing journey, and none of it would have happened without the Cuddy Residents stepping up and saying “We’ve had enough”.  And our government officials, both elected and appointed, listened. Add an engineer (Dan Fredricks) who took the Friends of the Cuddy Drain’s goals and made it work.  And finally, under a truly massive Special Assessment…. (yeah, that was a bit painful) – it all came together.  A giant group hug!! to all of you!!

A Rant About Too Many Boats

The DEQ refuses to take into consideration, as it ponders the expansion of the new marina from 20 slips to 54; the study that was done showing that Gun Lake is operating at 167% capacity.  The dangers of a crowded lake were made all too obvious by the tragic boat crash that occurred Saturday afternoon.


This crash happened near the new Landing Marina and the gas station – emergency services were set up in the front yard of my friend who lives next door to the gas station.  I am keeping the victims in my prayers and encourage others to do the same.

That same friend had been out earlier on a 27′ tri-toon, and said they got swamped by waves created by all the boat traffic – she wonders if the two boaters couldn’t see each other?

Please, everyone – be extra careful out there…..

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!

OK – I’ll admit that I got a little misty last night as I turned into the Orangeville Township Hall driveway to see that the parking lot was packed, overflowing out into the adjacent fields…. thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to the DEQ Public Comment meeting, and speaking your mind respectfully and eloquently.  I found it amazing, how our huge lake can still come together as a united community when there’s an issue that affects the lake!

There were some head-scratchers – like the absence of an Environmental Impact survey?  How can the agency named “Environmental Quality” ignore something like that??  How can there even BE a marina in a district zoned against it?  Or how could they issue the first Marina Permit without all their marina requirements being met??   As my dear husband says – “How can you do something first, then comply later?  What if I opened a restaurant – then complied with the Health Department after it had been open for a year??”

At any rate,  the DEQ should surely realize now that they gave us NO Public Notice for last year’s marina permit, because we lake residents take our “Guardianship of Our Waters” seriously.  And I LOVE YOU for that!!

Poo, and Frustration….

No, it’s not a commercial about laxatives…. 😉

As I beat my head against the wall, trying to get someone, ANYONE?, to insist that restrooms be available 24/7 for the existing Gun Lake Landing 20-slip marina (and its proposed expansion to 54 slips) – it got me thinking about restrooms and how critical they are in our lives.

Can you imagine taking the family to Cedar Point for the day – and finding out there are no restrooms?!  How about a visit to the zoo, or museum, or concert, or sporting event with no restroom facilities?  How would you feel about letting your children play in the water at a beach if there were no restrooms??  (Did you just have an “eeeuwww” reaction?  I did.)  Public restrooms keep our world clean, and safe from pathogens* (see below).

REAL marinas have restrooms.  Hubby and I kept a 26′ sailboat at Eldean’s Marina in Holland for a few years – the restroom/shower facilities there were fantastic!  I think it’s safe to say that all true public marinas offer restrooms for their boaters – it’s a no-brainer: the marina is going to smell like a cesspool if they don’t.  They also offer “Sanitary Pumpout” – most big boats have heads (“boaty” word for bathroom) with holding tanks.  Even small boats carry portable toilets – heck, probably every pontoon manufacturer offers boats with “privacy nooks” for porta-potties/cassette toilets.

I remember going out on Gun Lake on my late father-in-law’s pontoon boat with the family.  We would bring along a little potty-training chair for the toddlers, since the old boat had a whopping 25 hp motor and getting a tyke back to the cottage before there was an “accident” was pretty much impossible.  Once we arrived at the cottage after a few hours of fun on the lake, the chair would be emptied into the toilet.  Easy-peasy; we were just keeping the lake clean.

Sadly, most of the people renting slips at Gun Lake Landing, don’t have cottages/restrooms nearby.  Where are they going to dump a porta-potty?  Where can they use a restroom themselves?  Ponder this math: 54 boats x 4 people per boat x 2 trips to the restroom in the course of a fun boating day = 432 bathroom visits per day (and that’s being conservative and assuming no beer is involved).  It is absolutely WRONG to expect the local businesses to pick up this burden; and since 2 of the 3 businesses I’m thinking of are restaurants – there’s no way on Earth that someone could carry a porta-potty through the door (and I highly doubt the Marijuana Dispensary will throw open their doors).   There is also no stipulation that the slip renters can’t stay overnight on their boats – I mean, LOTS of people do that in marinas, and pontoons with Camper Packages are seen frequently on our lake.  Eventually, our local businesses close for the night.  What do the slip renters do then??

We ALL know where the poo is going to go: our perfectly-clean lake.  And that makes me insanely angry – and the neighbors near the marina, too.  Their children and grandchildren play in the lake – they have enjoyed clean, safe water for decades (I have the water-test data to prove that).  I’m sure the slip renters don’t want to willingly defile our water – but necessity is what it is.  Besides, they don’t have to worry about a Brown Trout (I’m not talking fish here) washing up on their lakefront some morning.

And this isn’t something that can be passed off to the future.  There are 20 boaters who need restrooms NOW; and children who will be playing in the lake.

*Pathogens: here’s a little “Cootie 101” for my new readers:  We test for e-coli in water, because it’s the easiest, cheapest intestinal bacteria to test for.  But where you find e-coli, you can be assured that its other intestinal pals are lurking, also: pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Heliobacter, Streptococci, Enterobacter, Shigella, Clostridium, etc etc etc.  Some of these have the potential to kill; ALL of them can make you miserably sick.  And once introduced into the water – they can live for anywhere from days to months – and THAT is why we regularly test our water and THAT is why I’m being so bullheaded about this restroom issue.


Cuddy Drain Meeting Wed. May 10th Notes

It was a great meeting!  We had a good audience turnout, with zero complaints.  Here is the happy news:

Dredging: DONE.  Silt curtain was removed, bathymetric scanning is complete and they actually dredged a little bit more than planned.  They planned on removing 10,000 cubic yards of sediment, with another 2,000 cu.yd. built into the contingency – they actually removed 12,300 cu.yd’s of sediment.  This resulted in a slight cost overrun of 2%, or $7,410.00.  There were additional costs brought about by more LRE inspection time than previously accounted for – but as someone said from the audience: “Pay ’em – they’re worth every penny!”

Upstream remediation: ALMOST DONE.  The culverts have been replaced at Timber Creek – they are just finishing up seeding/mulching.  Unfortunately, a property owner along 1st St asked for extra riprap so he can ride his ATV across the drain which divides his property.  Since he had already ridden across, and tore up some of the erosion prevention….sigh… the commissioners voted to do some prevention for $1000, rather than go back later for restoration.

Sediment Control: WORKING.  The Sedimentation Basin has been in place; and before the contractors leave the area, they will scoop out whatever sediment has been collected so far.  Someone mentioned that there is some sediment collecting under the Patterson Bridge.  There will ALWAYS be some sediment – the watershed is quite rolling, and farmland is planted VERY close to the drains.  The good news is that the 2 collections points for sediment are easily accessible by an excavator, to be cleaned out.  Jim Dull, Barry County’s new Drain Commissioner, proposed checking the Sedimentation Basin at least twice a year (and that sounds good!)

Debris Control: WORKING.  The barrier is easily seen from Patterson Rd; and easily accessible via the easement

E-coli reduction: stay tuned 🙂  Our tests last fall showed lovely CLEAN, SAFE WATER (for the first time in decades).  I have been holding off on testing this year, until the majority of streambed work was finished.

New issues: That beautiful new bridge on Patterson is attracting fishermen.  It’s OK for them to fish from there – but it was proposed that “No Parking” signs be installed at the bridge.  And maybe a trash receptacle?  Rich Beukema says he has been picking up bait cartons and food wrappers left behind 😦

Lastly – and this is a BIGGIE:

NO TRESPASSING:  I know that the egress roads for the Sedimentation Basin (off 1st St), and the Debris Barrier (off Patterson), are acting as lures for those of us who love to hike in the woods along a babbling brook.  However, those roads are still on PRIVATELY-OWNED PROPERTY, whose owners were promised that only Drain Commission workers would be using the easements so kindly granted by the adjacent residents.  Without those easements, the things that will keep the Cuddy Channel clean and safe, would be lost.  Please stay OFF the private property, and encourage others to do the same.

The last, and probably FINAL meeting for the Cuddy Drain Board (at least regarding the Patterson bridge replacement and water-problems resolution) will be Wednesday June 14th at 10 AM at the Yankee Springs Township Hall.