WATSON DRAIN

what is the project status?

A petition was filed with the Barry County Drain Commissioner on March 20, 2018 requesting maintenance and improvement of the Watson Drain. On May 7, 2018, the Board of Determination ordered that a project was necessary to alleviate the flooding in the area and revised the boundaries of the Drainage District. No appeals were filed and the time to appeal the Board’s determinations has passed. 

Since the Board of Determination, the Drain Commissioner has been working with an engineer to develop a solution to the ongoing flooding problems. A long-term solution has been developed, consisting of an infiltration-based system, and connecting to and utilizing detention within existing watercourses.  Once implemented, bids will be taken and a day of review of apportionments will be held where landowners and public corporations can review their percentage of the overall cost of the project. The final project will then be constructed. In the meantime, the Drain Commissioner and engineer have been implementing temporary solutions to provide immediate relief from the rising water levels.

what are the legal lake levels of the surrounding lakes?

In 1942, the Barry County Circuit Court set the legal lake level for Upper Crooked Lake at 922.75 feet above sea level. In 2005, the Circuit Court revised the legal lake level to set 922.75 feet as the minimum lake level with seasonable fluctuations of up to one foot allowed. On February 27, 2018, Resolution No. 18-04 was passed by the Barry County Board of Commissioners authorizing the Barry County Drain Commissioner office to expend over the $10,000.00 limit for maintenance and repair for a lake level project. The Barry County Drain Commissioner has been the delegated authority for Upper Crooked Lake under Part 307 of PA 451 since 2001.  Eng., Inc. was contacted on March 1st to analyze the control structure connecting Upper Crooked Lake and Lower Crooked Lake.

There is no established maximum level on Upper Crooked Lake. Lower Crooked Lake, Pleasant Lake, and Mud Lake do not have legally established lake levels.

where is all of the water coming from?

Rainfall and surface runoff are the main contributors, but land use changes within the Drainage District contribute as well. Many Michigan lakes, including the Great Lakes, are seeing record levels this year. The past year is the third-wettest on record in Michigan. Additionally, the lowest lakes in the Watson Drain Drainage District (Upper Crooked and Lower Crooked Lakes) do not have an outlet, meaning without intervention, the water level can only go down through ground infiltration or evaporation. 

According to NOAA Quantitative Precipitation Estimates, Upper Crooked Lake received 8-12” and 12-16” above the long-term average in 2017 and 2018, respectively. For 2019, Upper Crooked Lake has already received 8-12” above the normal year-to-date precipitation (through July). While nearly all lakes are impacted by increased rainfall, the effect is especially exacerbated on lakes without an outlet.

what has been done to address the high water levels?

In summer 2018, the Drainage District’s engineer evaluated several temporary options to provide immediate, albeit short-term, relief for property owners.  The majority of these temporary options were eliminated due to adverse environmental impacts, permitting restrictions, highs costs, or extensive land acquisition.  Despite these obstacles, the Drainage District was able to obtain a permit to temporarily dam a culvert under M-43 and retain water in Glasby Lake/Marsh.

what is being done right now to address the high water levels?

The Drain Commissioner has recently secured an EGLE permit to bore under Delton Road to temporarily pump the water from Upper Crooked Lake into a pond owned by the Drainage District. Since pumping commenced on June 8th, the water level on Upper Crooked Lake has dropped nearly 6” from its highest level of 982.2’.

who is responsible for the costs of the project?

All costs incurred as part of the project, including engineering, legal fees and permitting costs, will be assessed to the Watson Drain Drainage District. The Drain Commissioner does not have a “general fund” to pay for Drain work.  All costs incurred for each Drain is levied to that particular special assessment district.

The assessments will consist of an at-large assessment to the Michigan Deptartment of Transportation for benefits to state roads, Barry County for benefits to county roads, Barry, Hope, Prairieville and Orangeville Townships for benefits to public health, and assessments to all properties within the Drainage District for “benefits derived”. There is no established definition or criteria to determine “benefits derived.” The Drain Commissioner has no control over how the public corporations or any particular property owner within the Drainage District collect the funds necessary for the Drain assessment.


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