Flood corrections on the Cass road in progress


Work to fix a flood problem that has plagued Cass Road businesses for years is finally underway – a project that will include multiple infrastructure upgrades to control the Miller Creek overflow and will be funded in part by about 500 owners in the Cass Road drainage district.

Drain County Commissioner Andy Smits appeared before county commissioners on Wednesday to provide an update on the project. Work began in January on the first phase of construction, the installation of a storm water diversion berm and a vegetative diversion channel to prevent flooding of Miller Creek, with an overflow directed to a vacant lot. adjacent. Smits says the project is now mostly complete and awaits final state permits for the wetlands and floodplains.

Phase two of the project will begin later this spring – with an expected completion date in August – and will consist of replacing the culvert that runs under Cass Road and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) crossing. Smits says one of the two century-old pipes that currently run under the road has collapsed, channeling “90 percent of Miller Creek’s water flow” through a single 24-inch pipe. “It’s not enough,” he said. “We’re going to dramatically reduce the bottleneck, and that’s really where the (flood) water is coming from. It crossed the shores on the west side of Cass and inundated the low estates there.

The two pipes will be replaced by a single box culvert with a channel “large enough for three people to walk side by side while holding hands,” says Smits. The increased capacity should not only better manage water flow and reduce flooding, but also allow passage of wildlife and the creation of new habitats. This aspect of the construction work, which is linked to the larger watershed restoration effort underway in the region as part of the Boardman River Dams project, earned the project a grant of $ 200,000 from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and the Chippewa Indians.

Garfield Township and local and state transportation funds also contributed to the costs of the project. But most of the financial burden will be borne by the owners of the Cass Road Drainage District, a defined area made up of a series of pipes, streams, ditches and culverts that drain stormwater into a common area. The district boundaries are approximately defined by Cass, South Airport, Silver Pines / McRae Hill and Hartman roads. Landowners in drainage districts are assessed for costs when maintaining existing drains or constructing new ones.

In October, county commissioners pledged full faith and credit to the county for up to $ 2.83 million in bonds for repairs to the Cass Road drainage district, with actual construction costs estimated at $ 1 , $ 5 million. County Finance Director Dean Bott said the bonds were issued through a direct placement sale with a bank, rather than a competitive sale, which reduced the overall cost of issuance of bonds. Due to “prepayments from homeowners and others in the drainage district,” only $ 1.83 million in bonds were actually issued, according to Bott. Commission Vice-Chairman Ron Clous said on Wednesday it was unfair for homeowners to pay the costs of improvement after flooding they had suffered over the years, saying entities like the Township of Garfield should take up more space. Smits notes, however, that funding for the project is already frozen and that a special assessment for landowners is the approved process to cover drainage projects under state law.

The sewer commissioner believes that the embankment and culvert work will be “curative” for the recurring flooding problems encountered by businesses on Cass road. Smits says he’s met with some homeowners this week to discuss other possible work that could further alleviate the flooding. A 1987 drain that runs north to south immediately behind the commercial properties facing Cass was built at a time when many properties in or around the drainage district consisted of farmland. Since that time, “we’ve built the Grand Traverse Crossings Mall, the Grand Traverse Mall, the Baymont Hotel, Cracker Barrel, etc.,” says Smits. “This whole sidewalk drains water much faster than the farmland that once occupied these areas. There are areas of retention, but nonetheless, water can enter the system at much more concentrated locations and at higher rates. “

In other words, says Smits, that 1987 drain may not be enough to meet the needs of the 2021 runoff. To determine if this is true and to what extent repairs can improve the situation, the drain will be dredged up and televised this year. With a better understanding of the condition of the drain, rehabilitation and repair work can take place – likely later this summer or early fall. “Inspecting and maintaining this drain could also bring relief to these businesses,” says Smits. “There is no record that I have seen since taking office that it has been dredged, remodeled or cleared since it was built. It may not reach its full capacity. “

Pictured: Business flooding on Cass Road during an October 2020 rain event

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