The Little River Intercounty Drainage Board has approved a proposed consent agreement with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, covering the remediation work on the Little Thornapple River drain.
The Intercounty Drain Board consists of drain commissioners from three counties; Jim Dull from Barry, Ken Yonker from Kent, Robert Rose from Ionia County and Brady Harrington, chair of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Harrington was not enthusiastic about the process of reaching a consent agreement with the DEQ. “We are at the point where it is as final as it’s going to get. It seems like I’ve been talking to them forever. Every time we make a change, it’s another six months…the proposed agreement is good enough for our purposes,” he said.
The drain board has been working on the remediation that has been underway since 2015, and has about 75 percent of the work completed with the expectation they would get a DEQ consent agreement. Dull said they will submit the agreement to the DEQ, hopefully have it approved, signed and back to the board by its Dec. 11 meeting.
The plan outlines repair of what angry property owners along the drain and trout stream called excessive clearing of trees in 2014 that caused erosion along the river banks and left parts of the 14-mile long inter-county drain looking like a war zone.
Streamside Ecological Service, contracted by the Intercounty Drain Board, developed the remediation plans that were submitted to the DEQ.
Attorney Stacy Hissong advised the board to take several steps; provide a $600,000 bond, ask that Streamside Ecological Service complete all actions by the board to do with the project and approve Streamside hiring Paul Forton, engineer with the Spicer Group, to consult with the Barry County Road Commission on a required road crossing.
The board also agreed that Hissong, Aaron Snell from Streamside, and Harrington will work together to make sure the requirements are done in a timely manner.
In other business, the board began preliminary discussion on consolidating the Little Thornappple River Drain and the Coldwater River Drain. A benefit would be with more property owners in a consolidated district, assessments would be spread over a wider population base and the assessments would be smaller.
Helping with the cost of repairing the East Street Bridge, east of Freeport, damaged by fallen trees blocking the bridge was talked about, with no definite answer given to Freeport resident Russ Yarger.
Yonkers said it would set precedent and they would not be able to deny any other applicant who asked. The other commissioners were unsure if was their responsibility.
Forton has looked at the bridge and said repairs would be fill, fabric and stone, with no work required on pilings.