Arenac Township files petition to stall Clam Drain dredging

Kevin Bunch
Representatives of Arenac County meet with a line of people Sept. 5 for the Clam Drain day of review at the county courthouse. Arenac Township has sought to slow work on cleaning the drain by requesting the drainage district include Gibson Township in Bay County.

ARENAC TWP. — The Arenac Township board unanimously approved a petition-resolution for the drain commissioner at its meeting Sept. 5 to try and slow down the project to dredge the mouth of the Pine River, known legally as the Clam Drain.

Clerk Cindy Halamar said the resolution requests that all parcels of the Pine River watershed in Gibson Township — located in Bay County — be included in the assessment.

“The tributaries of the Clam Drain, the middle and south branches of the Pine, originate in Gibson Township and aren’t being taxed,” Halamar said. “Residents of one county should not deal with all of the cost of a drain originating in another.”

A committee of township board members — Allen Osier, Jim Daly, and Jack Daniels — planned on working with the other four townships in the drain district to get similar resolutions passed, Halamar said.

Drain Commissioner Larry Davis said the existing, historical drainage district for the Clam is entirely within Arenac County and does not include Gibson Township. He said Gibson only contributes a small percentage of water to the drainage district, and he believes trying to add it in would be expensive, and a bad idea.

Davis likened the idea to when the Whitney Drain was made an intercounty drain, when contention ballooned costs to around $4 million in legal fees for a few hundred thousand dollars’ worth of construction. He added Gibson Township would likely fight any effort to be added to the drainage district, so legal fees could pile up in the process as well.

“If you look at what you’d get from the Gibson, you’d turn a $200,000 project into a $350,000 one, and that doesn’t make sense to me,” Davis said. “If they want to go the route of passing a resolution to make it an intercounty drain, the expense will be passed along to them.”

Davis noted that the first Clam Drain day of review was held Sept. 5. He said the majority of people he talked to did not seem to mind the project since their assessments were “not astronomical,” and that they understood their water needs to get to the bay. A change in the project cost would increase the total assessed cost.

Halamar said her board simply does not see where the dredging is required at all, adding that she has never seen the Pine River back up as bad as the Rifle River. The Rifle River is not legally considered a county drain.

She acknowledged there are stumps and other materials in the Pine River mouth, but does not feel dredging and cleaning are needed.

“I know nothing’s been done since the 1920s, but come on,” Halamar said. “I don’t see where it’s really necessary.”

Davis disagreed with her assessment, saying that the county needs to get the river mouth back “in its shape” with a 4-foot bottom and remove built-up sand. That way, if the area suffers a flash flood, the water would have some place to go.

Davis added he believes all the townships in the district need to pass similar resolutions before he can seek intercounty status for the Clam Drain, but if they want it, he would follow through with it.

“I think it’s a bad idea, the engineer thinks it’s a bad idea, but I’ll do what the townships will tell me to do,” Davis said. “But you don’t just snap your fingers, and create an intercounty drain.”


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