Budd Drain cleaning moves forward
STANDISH TWP. — Officials from Arenac and Bay counties agreed to request bids to clean the inter-county Budd Drain after meeting with members of the public Dec. 12 at the Saganing Tribal Center in Standish Township.
The drain runs across the county line through Lincoln Township, Standish Township, and Pinconning Township for five miles before ending at the Saginaw Bay. Due to its location, any effort to clean the drain needs to be approved by both counties, a sticking point that has left it untouched since the 1920s.
“Everyone agreed it needs to be done, but they are a bit miffed at the cost,” Lincoln Township Supervisor David Hertzberg said after going to the meeting Dec. 12.
Arenac County Drain Commissioner Larry Davis said the preliminary cost of the cleanup is currently estimated at about $700,000, but he and Bay County Drain Commissioner Joseph Rivet are looking at ways to reduce that amount.
He explained that of the 34 large tubes on the drain, 21 of those need to be replaced — a major force in driving up the cost. Davis said the property owners would bear the brunt of the cost of replacing those tubes as well as a railroad culvert.
Additionally, there are large trees growing in the drain itself, an additional complication for any cleanup effort, he said.
“It’s not an easy fix,” Davis said. “What makes it tough is that there are only 2,500 acres in the drainage district.”
The final cost will be split between the two counties, with 60 percent of it going to Arenac County, and 40 percent to Bay County. With such a relatively small drainage district, however, property owners are facing a potentially sizable bill.
Lincoln Township Treasurer Judy Bell said the drain commissioners are looking to split costs, with property owners who use or benefit from the drain paying 80 percent, and 20 percent at-large, to be paid for by the relevant units of government.
In a meeting in October, Davis said he wanted to split the cost of the work not only based on acreage, like most other drains, but per parcel as well, due to the proliferation of small homes along the drain that benefit from it.
Davis said the commissioners plan to meet again in January to see what work they want to do and where they can cut the cost before putting the cleaning out for bids. He said they have not secured financing for it, adding that due to the increased expense in putting it out for a bonding issue, he is hoping for a loan process instead.
Davis added they would not know for sure how lengthy a repayment period to go for until after final numbers are set.
Once a bid has been selected, Davis is hoping to have the trees removed from the drain during the winter to avoid disturbing farmers at work, with the rest of the work to follow once the ground thaws.
The drain commissioners are also looking at a study done by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe on the Saganing River to see if they can help improve its flow rate while working on the Budd Drain, Davis said. The river’s flow has slowed due to the condition of nearby drains and poor precipitation, he said.
“We’re hoping that cleaning the western end of the drain will improve the flow on the Saganing River, but we need to play close attention on how much water we’d be diverting,” Davis said.
The drain’s flooding problems along the western end have made it difficult for farmers there to tile their fields, Davis said, and they were the ones who initially requested the drain office look into cleaning it.
“The last time this drain was cleaned was during the Depression, and just imagine the hard time those people had. It must have really needed the work,” Davis said. “It’s our fault for not taking care of it.”