“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.

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GLPA Annual Meeting Aug 12th, 2017

We had a great turn-out for today’s GLPA Membership Meeting on a beautiful day! We sort of joke every year that a drizzly morning is our friend, so that our members have nothing better to do than attend a meeting 🙂

A quick recap for those who weren’t there:

Chad Kraai was elected to fill Doyle Smith’s seat on the Board; and then Rob Heethuis, Deb Masselink, and Chad Kraai were re-elected to serve another 3-yr term.

Our 501C4 status has been finalized!  We are no longer being taxed on any money we hold aside for future needs – 100% of our members’ dues now goes toward the good of the lake.  A huge THANK YOU! to Ryan Cole for making this happen!

Barry Co Sheriff Dar Leaf, Sgt Julie Jones, and two deputies presented Certificates of Appreciation to the people/families who assisted at the July 1st boating accident and surely saved lives – all of them were given a standing ovation by the membership.

I gave a happy recap about the round-the-lake water testing that showed zero e-coli in the lake – and one of the lowest e-coli readings on the Cuddy Drain, ever!  The Cuddy remediation is finished, and working nicely.  The Dam replacement is waiting for DEQ permits, and tentatively scheduled to begin late this fall.  GLIB (Gun Lake Improvement Board) is encountering a particularly-heavy year with invasive weeds and harvesting requests; and is currently $35,000 over the proposed yearly budget.

Rob reported that several of us on the GLPA are working with the Gun Lake Tribe, the State DNR and the Allegan County Parks Dep’t to hopefully install boat washes at Yankee Springs State Park and Allegan County Park, to help stop the spread of the aquatic invasive species that create so many problems.

Rob told the crowd that the DNR Fisheries Department has asked the GLPA to consider a very small Muskie planting – one fish per 2.5 acres.  Rob had the crowd respond, by a show of hands, how many supported or did not support this proposal (also – how many had “no opinion”) – I’ll edit this post later to give the ratio; but the “no” group was the majority.  The GLPA will be sending out a card with more info and a formal ballot this fall on this topic.

Jan Schuiling and Dan Ullery gave a report on this year’s fireworks (which were awesome, by the way!) – Jan will be stepping back (after decades of expertly handling the program – you just can’t imagine how many permits and groups need to be coordinated for this!) and letting Dan handle next year’s display with her assistance.

A motion was made by a member in the audience, to add a line item “Legal Fees Donation” to the annual GLPA membership cards that will be mailed out next spring.  Many members expressed their desire to help financially.  The motion was seconded, and approved unanimously.  Another motion was made, seconded, and also unanimously-approved to continue working with our lawyers past the Marina’s  DEQ permit deadline (still no permit as of today), since zoning still needs to be addressed; and appeals might need to be filed.

Sarah Nelson of the Barry County Conservation District dropped off flyers showing what Phragmites look like and why we don’t want them – unfortunately, they are becoming very prevalent in our area.  They are easy to spot – they look like TALL grass (6′ to 15′ tall) with huge purple seedheads in the summer,  turning to silver plumes in the fall and winter.  They like “wet feet”, so can be found where cattails like to grow.  It’s a pretty plant; that can turn into a terrifying fire once ignited.  Here’s Sarah’s flyer, and I tagged a photo of a “Phrag Fire” at the end:

Circuit Court Dam Meeting 7/31/17

The Gun Lake dam replacement process took another step forward: today, Circuit Court Judge Amy McDowell signed the paperwork setting the boundaries for the Special Assessment District; and re-affirming the lake level at the same altitude as was set back in 1921 and again in 1950.

Another meeting will be held, probably in a couple of months, that will outline how the assessment will be figured (based on linear feet of frontage, acreage, or simply by parcel?). There seemed to be concern in the crowd attending, that the State (Yankee Springs State Park) and Allegan (Allegan County Park) pay their fair share. Of course that seems more than “proper” – if the lake disappeared, who would pay to attend those parks? On the other hand, how can we force them to actually white a check?

Stay tuned for the “Write a letter to your State Representative” campaign 😉

And as a P.S: After watching 130+ amazing Cuddy Channel residents fork over $6600+ EACH in assessments in order to preserve a clean, safe Gun Lake – I will not be sympathetic towards whining about the puny assessment (rumored to be around $200) it will cost each property owner to preserve our beautiful lake.

Gun Lake is priceless and we all know it.

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.

http://fox17online.com/2017/07/01/police-investigate-crash-on-gun-lake-in-barry-county/

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…..

Dam Replacement and Water Level

A nice letter from Jim Dull, (Barry County Drain Commissioner) was sent out, explaining that a Special Assessment District will be set up to fund the replacement of the dam.   (I think I’ve explained this in previous posts)  Basically, they wish to use the same system that has been in place for over a decade to fund the Gun Lake Improvement Board, who oversees keeping our lake clean and relatively-free of aquatic invasive species.  Easy-peasy.  They will have a public court hearing on July 31st, 2017 at 1:30 PM at the Hastings Courthouse to establish this Special Assessment District for the dam replacement.  It’s a good plan, in my opinion – it shares the financial burden amongst everyone who owns property with lake access.  And the new dam will be relatively inexpensive, as major projects go.

But there’s one item that they are stressing, and I will too: the lake water level will NOT be changed.  There’s actually a Michigan Statute that sets the level of our lake.

In 1921, the water level was officially set at 744.32′ above sea level.  Now, using far more sophisticated measurement devices and standards, the lake will be set at 743.90′ NAVD88.  It sounds lower; but it’s not.  On the other hand – the dam is even more saggy/leaky than it was last year; so our low water levels this summer will seem pretty darn low.  When the new dam brings the level back up to its 1921 height – it will feel like the lake was “raised”.

Since my readers are brilliant and eloquent, I’m hoping you’ll all help squelch the rumors 🙂