Red Mill Dam study expected this week
By DEB WUETHRICH
Preliminary results from a study requested by the Lenawee County Drain Commission on the condition of the Red Mill Dam structure are expected the week of May 7. Drain Commissioner Stephen May said a preliminary report from Fishback, Thompson, Carr and Huber (FTC&H), a Grand Rapids engineering firm, was originally expected this week, however there is a reason for the delay.
“They are waiting on a couple quotes on some materials that they can use to put reliable estimates together,” said May. “These aren’t formal bids, but costs they can use to provide a reasonable estimate.”
Petitions gathered by property owners around Red Mill Pond were turned into the Lenawee County Drain Commission in March to request that a Lake Level District be created under Public Act 451 of 1994. The study is part of the process for establishing a special assessment district to pay for repairs, maintenance and operation of the dam.
May said that representatives for FTC&H were at the dam site just prior to Easter last month for visual inspections, and have been there at least one other time since then.
“They did not send divers down because they don’t think they need to, since the report from 2005-2006 showed that the structure was very solid,” said May. “There is no expectation that it poses any potential failure.” He added that a dive team from the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department may make a dive in a week or two, however, and take some still photographs and video.
“We’ve used them a couple of times on other dams, and this would be as much for their training than anything,” said May. He said the photos would just provide a little more assurance on the dam’s condition.
May said the hope is that the estimated costs would come in somewhat less than estimated during earlier studies.
“Those figures were between $400,000 to $500,000,” he said. “We’re hoping it could be half that or less. We’re having them look at it as a more passive operation with one gate since we don’t need it to operate hydroelectric power as it did at one time. We just need to be able to operate the dam and maintain its level.”
The Drain Commission is looking at a tentative date of May 21 for a meeting to share results with property owners if all goes well, May said, with details of that meeting yet to be firmed up.
“The next step, assuming there is nothing so cost prohibitive we can’t do it, which we do not anticipate,” May said, “is to forward this report to our County Board of Commissioners for their June meeting. A resolution would be voted on at that point to receive the study and basically move forward to giving instruction to the county prosecutor to petition Circuit Court for the legal lake level.”
He said a judge would then establish a legal lake level as far as elevation and then a tentative assessment would be proposed to assess the cost of the project. Getting on the docket could take up to 60 days, he said.
“We recently met with the dam’s operator, and it’s still being operated to the mandate given by the state,” May said. “Currently, the county does not own it. All we’re doing is preparing a study and asking for alternatives to replacement, something reasonable and reliable we hope.”