Rising temperatures may allow pumping to begin
As temperatures continue to increase, the ice covering flooded lakes in southern Barry County is beginning to recede. Once ice coverage is less than 25 percent, pumps will be started on Crooked and Cloverdale lakes.
“If we get the weather they said we would, we’re hoping to be pumping by the end of the week,” Barry County drain commissioner Jim Dull said Tuesday. “But no guarantee. I’d love to, though, because we really need to be pumping.”
Heather Orow, of the National Weather Service’s Grand Rapids Office, said the warmer temperatures Barry County has been experiencing should continue into next week. The forecast calls for nighttime temperatures at freezing or a bit below freezing until Sunday and Monday when temperatures during the day are expected to hit 50 degrees.
“As we head into March, it’s getting increasingly unlikely that temperatures will get really cold again, but you never know,” Orow said.
Barry County has a higher than normal likelihood for above-normal rainfall in the springtime, she added. However, no major rain events are in the forecast in the next seven days.
Increased spring rain expectancy is the primary reason Dull wants to get those pumps running.
GEI engineer Brian Cenci said that, last year, Crooked Lake rose 9.5 and 10 inches, due to rainfall. This year, they are expecting between 9 and 11 inches.
Cenci said Crooked Lake is four inches higher now than it was last year, but the pumping system they have in place makes them more prepared for spring rains than they were last year.
The pumping system, which takes water from Upper Crooked Lake to a nearby detention basin, has been running since last summer. Dull said he and a team just finished improving the system so they could pump more water off the lake once the weather permits them to do so.
Another line was bored beneath Delton Road to increase pumping capacity onto the property. The new line would allow use of a larger, 18-inch, pump to remove water from Crooked Lake, doubling the current pumping output.
Dull said the plan is to have the 9 piezometers installed by Friday so that when they begin pumping, they will be able to see where their water is going.
The 12-inch pump that has, until now, been used to take water off Crooked Lake will be placed further into the property and will be used to pump water north, he said.
However, that pumping cannot begin until the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy approves the drain commissioner’s permit to do so. The permit is for the construction of infrastructure on Cloverdale and Long lakes to allow for the pumping water north from Crooked Lake.
Once EGLE approves the permit, a public hearing must be held.
“The permit has been on the state's desk for the past few weeks, and we really want to have that hearing as soon as possible,” Cenci said.
After the hearing, Dull and Cenci will be able to start construction, after which they will begin pumping.
Dull's goal on the Watson Drain project is still to get as much water off Crooked Lake as they can.
He also addressed some questions raised by Upper Crooked Lake residents regarding the time that project is taking to complete.
The Pine Lake flooding relief project, which had its initial public meeting last summer, had a follow-up meeting to discuss the solution proposed by LRE engineers who are heading up the project. This progress had led some Upper Crooked Lake residents to wonder why the Watson Drain project is taking so much time.
Dull said the delay is due to EGLE’s hesitancy about allowing the plan to take water north, a position that changed once Jared Sanders, EGLE’s new water resource director, entered that post in early 2019.
Some motorists have expressed concerns since water seems to be creeping closer to M-43 Highway near Cloverdale Lake. High water closed the highway last year in the same location.
Due to the flooding on Cloverdale Lake, Dull said the lake could be bypassed entirely and a pipe could be run directly to Long Lake. That option could be explored should the situation become more dire.
But the road commission did some work along the highway to try to prevent the water’s advancement, something that seems to be working for now, he said.
As the Watson Drain project continues, Dull said he already noticed positive improvement in performance since changing to GEI engineering.
“The response time on some of the stuff has been much faster,” Dull said. “Time is money, and this is saving people time.”
Dull said his philosophy on the project is that, the faster they can get a solution in place, the less chance they’ll be hit with another lawsuit.
“Lawsuits don’t help anyone. It’s just taking money out and burning it,” he said.
A new drain commission web page offers links to updates for some of the major projects.
“As for right now, we’re just trying to get the pumps on before the rain starts coming down,” he said.