November 28, 2014

Preliminary survey to get underway for Budd Drain cleaning

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
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BAY CITY — The long neglected Budd Drain, which runs across county lines through Lincoln, Pinconning, and Standish townships, may finally be getting the maintenance work that has eluded it for 80 years.

Arenac County Drain Commissioner Larry Davis met with Bay County Drain Commissioner Joseph Rivet, Michael Gregg, of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Ron Hansen with the engineering firm Spicer Group on Sept. 12 to clear preliminary engineering and cost assessments for the project.

“From what I can see, it’s been so long since work was done on that drain, there will have to be major renovations,” Davis said.

Davis does not believe that the Budd Drain has been maintained since around 1928. Since then, it has had trees growing in it 30 inches in diameter and has problems with erosion and sediment, he said.

Rivet, Davis, and Gregg — forming the Budd Intercounty Drain Drainage Board — approved a proposal by Hansen to have Spicer Group do a conduct an engineering study on the drain.

Spicer will have to update the parcel map for assessment purposes, conduct a topographical survey to determine the levels of sediment, erosion, and vegetation in the drain, get information from local utilities around the drain, determine the drain flow lines, review the 100-year floodplain for the Saganing River and Lake Huron — both of which the drain flows into — among other tasks.

All of this information will then be compiled so Spicer can give the drainage board recommendations on work, including getting the drain back to its historical form or making tweaks to its flow. Hansen said they would like to divert more of the drain water into the Saganing River than into the Saginaw Bay, if possible.

The cost of the engineering work is an estimated $40,000, Hansen said, a number unanimously approved by the board.

Rivet said the price tag and formal process were acceptable to him given the scope of the project, and Davis agreed.

Rivet said since Bay County has a larger revolving fund than Arenac County, it would pay the initial engineering cost, and the two counties could sort it out down the road for an equitable cost split. Each county will handle smaller bills separately for the time being.

Hansen said he hoped to have the outside field work completed in two months, and recommendations for the board before the end of the year. At that time he would have a better idea of who owns property along the drain and who benefits from the drain in each county, adding that he believed the properties have changed since the 1920s.

Davis said he is considering assessing people based on parcels rather than on acreage. Unlike most other drains in Arenac County, the Budd Drain runs around developed residential property, and using that traditional assessment model, farmers would be paying much more for their land than someone who owns one acre with their house on it. He said he would prefer people pay based on benefit rather than land owned.

Hansen said the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe had expressed interest in participating with the project financially for the portions of the drain that run in tribal land, so meetings would have to be arranged with tribal officials.

Land held in the tribal trust is legally exempt from assessments and taxes, Gregg said, as U.S. entities cannot do either of those things on sovereign tribal land. He said the tribe can volunteer to help pay, however.

Arenac County Clerk Rick Rockwell, who attended the meeting, suggested submitting a 2-percent gaming revenue grant request to the tribe to help finance the engineering work, especially since the cost assessment and survey plan are complete.

Rockwell said the tribe financed work on the Standish-A drain in the past before the 2 percent grants existed, so he believed if Arenac County or one of the townships submitted the request, it stood a good chance of being approved. The only Bay County entities that seemingly can apply for the grants are Pinconning and Pinconning Township, Rivet said.

Once a plan has been approved by the board, Hansen said it would be a matter of talking things through with the tribe, road commissions, Lake State Railroad, and the Michigan Department of Transportations to determine the cost. If the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has concerns and requirements, that could slow work down as well, Hansen said. The engineering survey does not include discussions with MDEQ.

The Budd Drain runs for five miles eastward along the county line to the Saginaw Bay. As a result, final work on the drain would have to be approved by both counties.

Davis said the current state of the drain is causing flooding problems on the land it services, especially on the west end of the drain. Water will back up in the drain and cause flooding up to two miles away, he said.

“There’s no doubt work needs to be done,” Davis said. “It’s just a case of what’s the best way to approach it and assess it fairly.”

The next public meeting of the intercounty drain board is set for Oct. 30 at 10 a.m., and will be held in the Arenac County Building.

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