Time running out for Red Mill Pond dam work this fall

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A fall drawdown of Red Mill Pond for dam repair is ‘iffy.’ Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

With the Lenawee County Drain Commission still awaiting a permit giving approval to drawdown Red Mill Pond yet this year, time is the big factor, according to Drain Commissioner Stephen May. He said obtaining the permit is key to whether planned maintenance and repair on the dam will be a “go” or “no go” in 2013. State officials have promised an answer by August 28.

“The permit is the trigger, and even then, it’s a fairly tight schedule,” said May. “It’s getting a little uncomfortable for this office and the engineering firm.”

May met on Wednesday, Aug. 7, with Fishback, Thompson, Carr and Huber (FTC&H), an engineering firm from Grand Rapids that is working with the County Drain Commission office on the project. The company compiled a report for estimated dam repairs with a price tag of approximately $315,000 last year; however, costs will be more refined once bids are received.

A legal lake level and special assessment district comprised of 49 Tecumseh property owners was approved in March through the Lenawee County court system.

May said construction plans are still being discussed for the repairs, and once a decision on the drawdown is made, the plans need to go to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Dam Safety Division.

“There are still a few things to do once we have the permit,” said May. “There’s an appeals process that could still happen and that could take some time. If we don’t get started until mid-November or early December and some construction gets started, we’d have to suspend the project for the winter, so the window is getting pretty tight right now.”

Once issued, the permit is good for five years, he said.

May said reasons that could play into the delay included the fact that the project involves more agencies than the DEQ. “It involves the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,” he said. “Their reviews and comments all have to be considered. There may be some stipulations or conditions that could be written into the permit, and we’d have to include these in our final plans.”

The various agencies look at such a project from different angles, he said. “There are hibernation issues with some of the critters out there, and I don’t think it’s new knowledge to anybody that there’s an eagle’s nest out there,” May said. “This involves various agencies and the review needs to be thorough.”

He said this project is a little different from working around the water’s edge or dredging or filling various waterways.

“It’s an actual drawdown, an impoundment,” he said. “We just want to make sure everything is done thoroughly and to include all the affected agencies.”




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