Commissioners approve $77,000 match for water levels study

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Photo by Linda Gallagher

Antrim County Drain Commissioner and Operator of Dams Mark Stone, who shepherded a group of lake association and riparian property owners' efforts to obtain a $287,000 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydrology study in the Chain Of Lakes, is shown at last Thursday evening's meeting of the Antrim County Board of Commissioners. 


REGION – Much to the surprise of many who packed into the meeting room, including the county's Operator of Dams and several board members, the Antrim County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $77,375 match for a Chain Of Lakes water level hydrology study during last Thursday evening's business meeting.

The approval, which was the final funding needed for the $287,000 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study, came with little fanfare or discussion by the seven members of the Commission at the meeting. Board members Brenda Ricksgers and David Heeres were both absent.

Expected to begin in early October with a flyover of the 14 lakes and numerous tributaries of the Chain, as well as preliminary collection of transect measurements and other data requirements – some of which will be done with sub-contracted local surveyors – the study will not only be an effort to understand water levels in the Chain, which in recent years have been at record heights, but serve as a tool for the Federal Emergency Management Administration. FEMA is expected to update flood plain designations in the next few years, according to Mark Stone, Antrim County Drain Commissioner and Operator of Dams.

Stone has shepherded the project, which should be complete sometime in 2021, for the past 16 months.

In a July 31 communication with the Board of Commissioners, the Drain Commissioner credited much of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's interest in doing the hydrology study, which he called a "remarkable and unique opportunity" not only to the fact that federal funding was available, but also to the "strong cooperative effort between the County and the Lake Level Committee" headed by the Intermediate Lake Association's Dave Christian and Janet Hickman.

The Lake Level Committee, which is comprised of members of all of the Chain's lake associations, formed last year after a number of representatives and riparian lake owners spoke at a Commissioner's meeting, demanding that something be done about the ongoing high water in the Chain, which has resulted in the flooding of several homes in the watershed.

Flooding has been an issue in the area since 2014, when water levels throughout northern Michigan began a recovery from record low-water levels experienced since the late 1990s.

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