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Village drain project prompts alternative solutions to issue

March 05, 2014 - Goodrich-A long time area business is seeking alternatives to a costly village drain project.

At 7 p.m., March 12 the Goodrich Country Club, 10080 Hegel Road, will host Tammie Heazlit of Lotus H20 Environmental to discuss options to a pending upgrade to the Wheelock & Watkins Drain.

An agricultural drain built in about 1897, the Wheelock & Watkins Drain encompasses a large section of the village, impacting about 100 residents. The old drain under the jurisdiction of Genesee County has been one possible cause of flooding of several residents' homes over the past few years. The flooding intensified, prompting village officials to engage the county drain officials to investigate the issues. As a result, petitions were signed last year and in a special meeting on April 9 at the village offices, a board of determination voted 3-0 to move forward with an upgrade to the Wheelock & Watkins Drain.

Since then, a study and survey of the impacted drain area to provide possible solutions was completed by the engineering firm of Fleis and Vandenbrink and released in December. The estimated costs of the two alternatives outlined in the report range from about $500,000 to $700,000, funded primarily by the village and residents within the drainage district. The report is put out there for comment by residents, village officials or anyone interested. The comments are then evaluated by the Genesee County Drain Office and discussed. The next step is to sit down with the engineers and determine if additional easements may be needed.

Due to the proximity and size of the Goodrich Country Club (GCC) within the drainage area, members of the club's board of directors fear the cost of the proposed Wheelock & Watkins upgrade will be fiscally damaging to the business.

In January, the GCC responded to Jim Gerth of the Genesee County Drain Commission after the survey by Fleis & Vandenbrink was released.

The GCC board expressed concerns with the proposals, "which would likely impose a large special assessment on us, with little or no benefit received. The Goodrich Country Club has not changed the natural flow of the surface water en route to its common outlet. The Country Club has had no participation in the development of the properties to the east of Ridge Road and to the north of Huron Street. If it was not for the permitting and overseeing of the drainage tile relocation by your department, development of those lots would not have been cost effective."

In the letter the board also expressed hope that, "in reviewing the options of costs and designs of this drainage system, you consider the large financial burden this will place on those of us in the assessment area. The Goodrich Country Club, and most likely the other property owners, would like for you to consider less expensive and more practical alternatives to this problem. In this economy, golf courses in our area are all struggling to survive. A large assessment will cripple the Goodrich Country Club financially. We have been a good neighbor in the Village of Goodrich for nearly 50 years, paying taxes and bringing business to the area."

"We also realize, according to information from your department, that even if the drain is repaired, such a major rain event will still cause flooding in this area," they wrote. "So what is the benefit? To be assessed a very large amount of money (that we can not afford) to repair a drain that manages the flow of rain adequately under normal circumstances, and still will not be able to manage a high volume of rain if one of these unusual rain events should happen again seems unreasonable."

As a result, GCC members contacted Heazlit to provide a new look at the project.

"I have quickly run through the newly released report regarding the Wheelock and Watkins drain issues," wrote Heazlit in a letter to The Citizen. "Although I would need to spend more time evaluating to make detailed recommendations, two things came immediately to mind that would result in lower costs to the taxpayer, while contributing to placemaking and beautification."

Heazlit added that green infrastructure is finally being promoted in Michigan and this problem and location (in Goodrich) are ideal for such an installation. The term 'green infrastructure' or GI, has two interpretations; In a larger sense, it is the interconnectedness of open space, with the focus on maintaining green space corridors to connect communities and to increase habitats. These areas function in atmospheric cooling, and recharge for groundwater infiltration. Where there is infiltration, there is less run-off. The second aspect of GI is in regard to stormwater management. The information obtained in this report provides all but that regarding soil profiles, so is nearly complete for use in a GI solution."

"GI has been increasing dramatically across the US, and in every instance," she wrote. "It is significantly less expensive to design and install. It treats water as a resource rather than a waste product."

There is a maintenance aspect to GI, but it is much more cost effective than traditional piping, she added.

"The intent of GI relative to stormwater is to slow it down, spread it out and soak it in," she continued. "Infiltration basins and/or rain gardens are installed which reduces the run-off into pipes. Other GI design includes modular wetlands, permeable or grass pavers, even large scale rainwater collection systems. Strategically located, these and other elements of GI can be installed at a cost savings to the citizens."

Village Councilmember Mark Baldwin said to keep an open mind to alternatives.

"I had a crash course in green infrastructure," he said. "I applaud the fact she (Heazlit) stepped up. I found a few locations in Michigan and Wisconsin that GI reduced piping costs by 15 to 85 percent. That's huge. The GI project was used in the Gilkey Creek project in the Flint area—either way we should remain conscious of the environment."

Baldwin added that during a recent meeting with the Genesee County Drain Commission, the concepts of green infrastructure were discussed.

"I don't want to throw the drain commission under the bus, but if green infrastructure is cost effective and endorsed by EPA and the DEQ, it could be an option."

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