2010-12-30 / Opinion

Cost Will Be Among Considerations for Dam, Committee Member Says

To the Editor:

This letter is a response to a recent letter to the editor of The St. Ignace News [November 11, 2010] from an East Lake property owner on Jersey Road. According to her letter, she believes that the East Lake Committee has not provided her with information. I have prepared a packet of information to send to the landowner. The packet includes copies of mailings that were sent to all the East Lake property owners. The mailing address list that we use was obtained from the Mackinac County Courthouse and is the list that the county uses to mail property taxes and other official correspondence. The mailings began in the fall of 2005 and extend through July 2009. They include announcements of meetings, results of meetings, a chronological history of the project until July 8, 2009, a letter from the assistant prosecutor dated April 6, 2009, and a letter from the Mackinac County clerk on Mackinac County official stationery dated July 15, 2009. The East Lake Condo Association holds annual meetings every Labor Day weekend. There doesn't seem to be any indication that the property owner has attended any of those meetings. The dam project has been discussed at these meetings annually since 2005.

Like any project of this size and with a large number of people involved, many bits of information have been misconstrued and errors have been made. But be assured that the East Lake Committee has not met in “secret” nor plotted any dastardly deeds. Once the committee took the signed petitions to the Mackinac County Board of Commissioners, the project was transferred to their hands. The committee has attended board meetings to answer questions and to keep abreast of any work being done for the project. Once an assessment roll has been set, lake owners will be able to meet and visualize how and what they would be assessed if a dam is constructed.

Presently there is not any set cost for the dam. Spicer Group gave an estimate of $350,000. There have been estimates based on the cost of recent dams built by the United States Forest Service. Most construction costs are presently considerably lower than in recent years. Nor has the Forest Service built a rock riffle dam to compare the cost of that design. The county has not asked the Forest Service to build the dam. The Forest Service has asked the Proponent Proposal to be completed to enable the Forest Service to decide what National Environmental Policy Act studies would be needed before a dam could be considered for the site. The cost of those studies might well be prohibitive, however, it seems that since we have come this far that a Proponent Proposal should be done so that the cost of the dam could be set. Once the cost can be determined, then the landowners can make an informed decision as to whether the price is equitable and doable.

None of the committee has ever uttered anything about wanting the dam regardless of cost! All of us are lake front owners and would be paying at the upper level of the assessment costs, if in fact an equitable cost for a dam on East Lake can be found. It is of utmost importance that the price is affordable for each East Lake property owner. It definitely will not be inexpensive. If it is proven to be too costly, then it would seem we will have no other choice than to halt the project.

This is a no-win situation for East Lake residents. If we do not build a dam, there is every indication that the lake is dying. We have two environmental studies that indicate that the lake is deteriorating at a rapid speed. Boaters are finding that they are breaking props just getting their boats to and from their docks. One East Lake Condo Association landowner could not move a canoe away from her dock because of the muck. First ice was strange this year. The area around the bogs remained open long after the other areas were iced. Apparently the chemistry of the muck and low water level is creating a bubbling action and generating heat.

There aren't any easy solutions to the perplexing problems.

Some folks feel that all we need are a few beavers. Presently, there isn't any food or building materials growing in that area even if beavers were to return. Beavers would attract trappers, and we would be left with the same problem. Even when beaver were present at the outlet, some of the early landowners assisted them by periodically reinforcing the dam with sand and cement bags.

Since 1994 it has been illegal to tamper with any outlet of a lake. The fines can run as high as $25,000 per day. You can be charged for the cost of restoration and up to $500,000 fine and five years imprisonment if the court finds you caused a substantial endangerment to the public health, safety, or welfare. For more information, research the Natural Resources and Environmental Protections ACT (Excerpt) Act 450 of 1994.

One would like to think that we can continue to look out across the lake and see fisherman bobbing in their boats, loons caring for their chicks, eagles circling, mother ducks leading a long line of ducklings along the shore, and in the evening, a lone rowboat gliding in the last light of the setting sun.

Kay Kujawa

East Lake

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