Lenawee County Drain Commission takes control of Red Mill Pond dam

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The Lenawee County Drain Commissioner’s office assumed operational responsibilities for Red Mill Pond Dam on Monday, December 17. The future operation of the dam had come into question after required inspections did not take place. It received its last required inspection in 2005 when developer Red Mill Pond LLC, which later went into foreclosure, purchased the property including the dam from Tecumseh Products.

Lenawee County Drain Commissioner Stephen May said that a little over a year ago, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Dam Safety Division had ordered a draw-down on the pond if an operator could not be provided after long-time attendant Wally Pike gave up the task.

“An arrangement was made and I think it was more of a gentleman’s agreement that for one year people on the pond would try to fund that,” said May. Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch, city attorney Scott Baker and others worked together and operational responsibilities were worked out with Wade Trim, a civil engineering consulting firm. A neighborhood group called Friends of Red Mill Pond also was formed to work on the issue.

“That was actually over a year ago, and there was concern about what would happen if there was no operator for the dam in the future,” said May. He said the County Drain Commission has done a lot of work and research on the dam while paperwork was filed to establish a legal lake level assessment district. “What we didn’t want to happen was for the state to step back in and order a drawdown while we were still trying to figure things out,” he added. May said that he had talked with Byron Lane, who heads the MDEQ Dam Division, and Lane is on board with the new ownership.

May’s office worked with the Lenawee County Administrator, attorneys and others and the property that the dam sits on is now in the county’s name, and an insurance policy is in place to insure the liability of the structure and operation. Signatures were also obtained so that there would be no future claims on the dam property as future repair and maintenance takes place.

The Lenawee County Prosecuting Attorney’s office filed a petition to establish the normal lake level for the Red Mill Pond on December 11.

“Judge Noe has been assigned,” said May. A hearing on setting official water levels is set for 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 28.

The preliminary schedule for what must take place next includes:

• Establishment of legal lake level and assessment of roll confirmation — anticipated between February and April of 2013

• Design and permit approval — anticipated between May and July of 2013

• Drawdown of pond and construction — expected between August and October of 2013.

“We thought we would be further ahead than we are, but it took time to get acquisition of the property,” said May. “We wanted to ensure there would be nothing to encumber our ownership.”

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