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Address widespread flooding problems

Address widespread flooding problems

Barry County Drain Commissioner Jim Dull briefs county commissioners Tuesday on efforts to address widespread flooding problems. Costs surpass half-million mark. 

Writen by Rebecca Pierce Editor.

Costs to fix flooding in the Delton area reached $544,102 as of March 25, with no resolution in sight.

“It’s going to be really bad the next month because of spring rains,” Drain Commissioner Jim Dull predicted Tuesday. “That’s what everybody’s bracing for.”

His biggest fear, he said, is a power outage.

“We’re going to lose a lot of houses that quick if we have a power outage.”

Right now, pumps are keeping high water under control.

“When pumps go off, if it happens, the water will just overtake everything,” he said.

The Watson Drain District, which includes Crooked Lake, involves 1,100 property owners.

When Dull provided his 2018 annual report to the county board of commissioners Tuesday, the talk was dominated by questions about flooding.

“So every lake that doesn’t have an outlet is experiencing high-water issues and flooding issues,” Commissioner David Jackson, who lives in Delton, said at the conclusion of Dull’s presentation.

“Exactly,” Dull replied. “Balker Lake, West Gilkey, Indian, Pine Lake, Shelp Lake, Crooked Lake, Long Lake, Wall Lake, Cloverdale Lake – every one of them.

“The only thing we can figure is because, one, groundwater is way up. I believe Lake Michigan is four feet above where it was a few years ago. The DEQ’s point is we get a lot more rain in a shorter time, so we don’t get the absorption.”

But a variety of other factors also contribute to high-water issues, he added. And it’s not simple.

Dull compared the flooding problem at Crooked Lake, which has no outlet for the water, to a bowl. The bowl is already full, he said, then start adding the sewer authority, more homes, more roads, the Delton village drain.

“You start adding all that,” he said, “and it’s an accumulated effect over 10 years.

“Even if it’s only one inch a year, it’s still 10 inches in 10 years.”

The sewer authority is bringing water in from outside of the Watson Drain district, which includes Crooked Lake. More people are living there and more houses create more non-permeable surfaces. Even farmers tiling their fields have an impact.

But, even with these developments over the years, lake levels also have cycles.

“That’s exactly what the graphs show,” Dull said, noting that he has documentation from the early 1900s.

“Crooked Lake has a five-foot swing in the [lake level] cycle. It’s about 30 years apart. Guess what? We’re about five feet off.”

Dull mentioned that a March 25 meeting with the state Water Resources Division may provide some hope as far as resolving Crooked Lake flooding. Previously, the state Department of Environmental Quality would not allow water from the lake to be pumped to the north.

Dull said he has since been told that, if only some of the water is moved to the north and not flooding anything out in the process, they may be able to use that as a long-term outlet, he noted.

The other choice would be to go three or four miles to the south and install an infiltration bed. Moving the water to the north would knock down the cost.

“It’s still not going to be cheap,” Dull said.

State officials were told, if the county is forced to move the water to the south, it would turn a $2-$3 million project into a $10 million project.

Dull said the point was made that the county is “working with taxpayers’ money and we don’t have a choice to walk away. … We don’t have that option. We can’t put people out of their houses to fix flooding solutions.”

Depending on where the property is located, some lakefront residents are not upset about high water, Dull mentioned after the meeting.

For some property owners, higher water levels eliminate weeds along the lakefront and make for better boating and fishing. So, these particular property owners are not pleased about being assessed for efforts to lower water levels.

At the board meeting, Jackson asked Dull about a project to raise the elevation of M-43 near Cloverdale Road, which was recently closed by flooding.

Dull confirmed that his department is working with the county road commission to raise the road.

“The problem with building the road up is that it’s on a swamp,” he pointed out. “The more weight you put on it, the lower the road actually goes.”

Once the road is built up enough, Dull indicated they will probably put a culvert under M-43 to relieve the swamp on the east side of the highway.

Dull also reviewed progress on a variety of projects, from the Holmes Drain at the corner of Charlton Park and Center roads, the Fineview Drain that had flooding damage at Fineview Bluff where one man’s house was washed away, the Cloverdale Drain where flooding affected M-43, and the Shallow Lake Drain, the Clear Lake Drain and the Messer Brook to the Thornapple River where the road commission will be replacing the bridge at Charlton Park Road with a new 38-foot structure.

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