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Charlton Park Road closed by Little Thornapple overflow, debris blocking culverts

Water flows over Charlton Park Road, north of Barnum Road, in Carlton Township, resulting from debris that is blocking the culverts underneath the road. The Barry County Road Commission is trying to come up with a solution to allow water to flow through the culverts, but it's awaiting approval from the state.

Greg Chandler

Staff Writer

            It's been a perpetual problem in the area of Charlton Park Road over the Little Thornapple River, north of Barnum Road in Carlton Township – water over the road.

            The road has been shut down multiple times this year, including again last week as debris has blocked the culverts in the river underneath the road, preventing water from running through the culverts and instead ending up over the road surface, resulting in the Barry County Road Commission closing the road.

            “We've cleaned it out about 20 times this year,” Road Commission Operations Director Jake Welch said. “It's been constant.  We've literally pulled out whole trees from in front of those culverts.”

            The road commission says it may have found a solution to the problem. The agency and Milbocker and Sons, an Allegan-based company that specializes in road and bridge projects, has put together a plan that would create a bypass on the north side of the culverts for the water to flow to, in hopes of reducing water levels and eventually allowing the road commission to reopen the road.

            “They would put steel sheeting in, parallel to the road on the east side,” Welch said.  “This is the only feasible option we've come up with that allows us to control the release of the water (through the culverts).”

            Because the project involves wetlands, that proposal needs approval from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, Welch said.

            The road commission already has plans to put in a new bridge next year to replace the five steel culverts – about 25 feet in length, total – that are currently underneath the road surface. The project has received funding through the state's Critical Bridges Program, and the road commission has agreed to a 15 percent local match to the state grant – much higher than the 5 percent local match most road commissions provide to projects that receive critical bridge funding from the state.

            Last Friday, the Little Thornapple Intercounty Drain Board approved a $30,000 allocation to the Road Commission to assist the agency in culvert work on Charlton Park Road. The board consists of the drain commissioners from Barry, Kent and Ionia counties. Barry Drain Commissioner Jim Dull said some of the culvert obstruction issues contributing to the water overflowing the road could have been avoided.

            “We should have done this in the middle of summer when they did have the water down. We could have taken that crossing out,” Dull said. “We had a lot of discussions with the Road Commission but they didn't want to close it because there's a lot of travel in the summer, so we didn't.”

            The road commission would like to install the new bridge over the Little Thornapple next spring, but that could be delayed depending on the spawning season for fish that are in the river, Welch said.

            For now, Charlton Park Road remains closed until further notice. If the bypass option under consideration by EGLE is approved, Welch is optimistic that water levels can be reduced to a point where the road could be opened within a week.



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