Archived Story

Rain, snow make drain office bustle

Published 9:14am Monday, October 5, 2009

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

CASSOPOLIS – When Water Resources Commissioner Bruce Campbell gave his annual report last year, his office, formerly known as drain commissioner, had six drain and lake level projects.

“As a result of rain and snow events,” Campbell reported to the Cass County Board of Commissioners Oct. 1, “the water table was at levels we had not seen since the 1980s. The drain office had 28 drain or lake level projects throughout the year.”

Commissioner Minnie Warren questioned Campbell about the culvert closed detouring M-51.

“It’s moving forward,” he said. “They plan to have that bridge done by the end of the month, I think.

“Also, outside Cassopolis, going toward Niles, in the dip where water was, they’re going to raise that road two to three feet this fall.”

Campbell took commissioners on a “brief tour around the county to highlight a few of these” 250 lakes and ponds. “Maintaining county drains is critical to our economy and quality of life,” including boating, fishing, swimming, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities. These waters are one of our county’s most valuable resources for current and future generations.”

Patrick Hamilton Drain in Dowagiac – with audio to go with the video on the new PowerPoint presentation equipment used for the first time in the commission chamber – was built in the 1800s and handles more than a third of the city’s storm water.

“Maintenance performed on this drain will also give some relief to some of the water problems in the Oak Park and Meadowbrook subdivisions which abut the drain in  Silver Creek Township,” Campbell said.

High water levels at Big and Little Smith lakes threatened homes and properties last spring.

With the assistance of the Cass County Road Commission, Campbell re-established the inter-county drain in farm fields to the east of Indian Lake Road.

“As I speak tonight,” he said, “water is still draining off the lakes toward the Dowagiac River.”

In the past 15 years there were three maintenance projects on the Whitaker Northeast Extension Drain, resulting in moderate success,” said Campbell, noting the drain was lowered 18 inches. A celery farmer expects to see yields increase 10 to 15 percent as a result.

In the Marcellus area, more than 500 feet of buried tile were replaced.

“This helps alleviate high water and drainage problems from the village,” Campbell said, “and agricultural land to the north.”

An inspection showed erosion on the support walls and embankments of the dam on Shavehead Lake,” he said. “Repairs were completed earlier this month which will insure the integrity of the concrete structure.”

Dredging of the channel on Garver Lake which will take place this fall originated with a 2001 petition.

“The drain office is currently involved with three petitions,” Campbell said. “The Happy Homes petition addresses an historic problem which has been with us since the certification of the subdivision (in LaGrange Township) in the early ’60s. The next step will be a Board of Determination hearing this fall.”

Another petition addresses an historic flooding problem in Glenwood.

“Two previous petitions were unsuccessful,” Campbell stated. “An Order of Necessity was procured and a new county drain will be constructed  before winter.”

A Road Commission petition to address storm water issues around Williamsville will be heard before the end of 2009.

“The collaboration of such a petition between the two county agencies is the first in many years – if ever,” Campbell said.

“The statistics in the annual report for the soil erosion program I administer are one indicator of the decrease in development in Cass County over the past year as a result of our current economic climate,” he said. “Even though it’s been a busy year for the drain office, I had a number of goals I wanted to achieve,” including a page on the county Web site. In the future, he plans to post drain and lake level maps to sites along with status of projects and environmental information.

Another goal was to start developing current maps on drain and lake level districts using the GIS mapping systems.

“Currently, 20 districts have been completed in this ongoing project,” he said. “This project will replace plat maps which are over 25 years old.”

Campbell said stormwater regulations are in their final draft before he brings them to commissioners for approval in fiscal 2010. His intent is to partner with townships to work on stormwater issues.

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