October 24, 2014

Apportionments for Clam Drain to span five townships, Standish, Sterling

8/22/13

ARENAC COUNTY — The Arenac County Drain Commission is sending out letters to property owners who may be on the hook for work on the Clam Drain — known more commonly as the mouth of the Pine River.

Drain Commissioner Larry Davis said the Clam Drain was last utilized in 1925, so the drain office is currently working on redeveloping the district rolls and figuring out who actually belongs in the district. About 4,700 parcels exist within the drainage district, running through Lincoln, Standish, Arenac, Adams and Deep River townships, and the city of Standish and village of Sterling.

Davis said the ice jam at the mouth of the Pine River last year could have led to major flooding farther upriver, and rocks and debris left behind in the aftermath are slowing the flow of water. He wants to see the mouth of the river dredged to roughly 4 feet of depth, and cleaned as a preventative measure against future flooding.

“Does the work need to be done out there? Absolutely,” Davis said. “Do I think it will flood again if we have another winter like this last winter, with the amount of rocks left behind? Not only is it going to flood again, I think it’s going to be worse.”

He said since properties in the northern end of the county, around Adams and Deep River townships, tend to have higher elevations, they have a lower risk of flooding. Those properties closer to the Saginaw Bay have lower elevations, and are at a greater risk of flooding if water comes down the river and is unable to flow into the bay fast enough.

“We came within 2-3 inches of flooding houses on the lower stretch last winter,” Davis said. “The impact is more on lower stretches than the upper ones, but those people on the upper stretches are responsible for where their water goes, and to be sure it doesn’t flood somebody else out.”

He compared the current state of the Pine River to the Au Gres River before it was dredged and the harbor built, as it was prone to flooding up the river. However, Davis pointed out that the Au Gres River is maintained by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, while the Pine River is the county’s responsibility.

Davis believes dredging the mouth of the river will help floodwaters recede faster in areas such as such as farm fields or the Pine River Golf Course.

“If you’re a farmer, and you get 6 inches of rain in the summer, you’re going to want to get water off the crops as fast as you can,” he said.

Currently Spicer Group, a Michigan-based civil engineering firm, is developing the drainage rolls, so Davis does not have the final figures, but he is estimating the 2014 assessment at being around $25,000, or an average of 50 cents an acre. Work on the river will begin in earnest in 2015, and he estimates the cost to total between $175,000 and $200,000. The average person’s assessment would be multiplied by about six per acre from 2014 for that year; for a 50-cent-per-acre assessment, the cost would be around $3 per acre.

Davis said from 2016 on, the drain office would be seeking $5,000 annually to keep the drain roll alive and collect money for future needs. He believed that cost would come out to “pennies” for most people. He noted the notices mailed out Aug. 15 to everyone impacted by the district, will likely end up costing the office more than the assessment in some areas like Standish, but legally they must be sent out.

Since the assessment maps are from 1925, Davis encouraged anyone who does not think they actually fall into the drainage district to bring up their concerns at the day of review Sept. 5 at the Arenac County Courthouse. The review runs from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

“I strongly advise anyone who feels they are not in the drainage district — because it was developed in 1925 — that they come in for the day of review so we can pinpoint those properties,” Davis said. “We have better elevation maps than they did back then, and I suspect some properties should not be in the drainage district.”

Davis does not believe the DEQ will have any problems with the dredging, as there is an existing permit for the area that just needs to get transferred to the drain office. He has been unsuccessful in convincing the DEQ to help pay for the dredging work, however, despite the fact that the state’s Wigwam Bay Public Access dock at the river mouth would receive direct benefit from it.

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