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'Never a problem, until Enbridge'

May 14, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- A 100-year rain is defined as a weather event so severe it can be expected to happen no more than once in 100 years on average.

Salli Petherbridge wonders if that is what happened this past Monday, when torrential downpours flooded Sarah's Way and prevented her and neighbors from using their road. More likely, she believes, is that construction by Enbridge Energy is to blame.

"We've been here 18 years and never had a problem with the road until Enbridge," said Susan Evans, also a Sarah's Way resident. "They told us in the township meetings that it was all taken care of and there would be no problem with the road. They assured us of this."

After the rain caused their road to wash out Monday, they were using Enbridge's two track easement to get out. The multi-billion dollar petroleum pipeline company, which is replacing the Line 6B oil pipeline that traverses 6 miles in the township, and in total stretches more than 200 miles from Griffith, Ind. to Marysville, Mich., is also building a 35-foot tall pump station adjacent to the Evans' property. The pump station will exceed 5,000 square feet, and house two 6,000 horsepower pumps as well as a spare.

Over the course of the past two years, Enbridge has drawn the ire of both township residents directly affected by the pipeline, as well as township officials, by failing to obtain proper permits and violating township ordinances. Enbridge was responsible for one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history, the 2010 Marshall, Mich. disaster in which 1 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River from a ruptured pipeline. For most of 2012, township officials challenged Enbridge plans after their requests for higher safety standards went unheeded and even approved court action before the company finally met legal requirements.

Enbridge has replaced 3 miles of the pipeline in the township and is about to embark on replacing the last three miles of pipeline in the township. Last month, the company requested extended hours in which to work on construction of the pump station located off Seymour Lake Road near Sarah's Way and Cook's Trail. The township board denied the extended hours after hearing numerous complaints from neighbors who said the company was already violating the township ordinance, which allows construction work only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Board members warned an Enbridge representative at the meeting that if the company or its contractors were found in violation of the ordinance, law enforcement would ticket them.

Right now, however, the neighbors want a remedy for the flooding issues.

"They are saying this is not totally their fault," said Petherbridge. "But the last time our road was flooded out was 2 years ago and it was a combination of Enbridge work and the Consumers Energy line that went through. Heavy trucks flattened out the culverts and the water was not able to flow. The easement road that comes off Seymour Lake Road, they put crushed stone and raised the road, but the drainage ditches have been filled. You could float a canoe down the hill coming from the construction site, the water was going directly beneath their guard shack."

Arthur Anthony, an Enbridge representative, said on Wednesday that the company is aware of the complaints and has "taken steps to resolve the situation." He referred further questions to Jason Manshum, a public relations representative for Enbridge who did not immediately return a call for comment.

Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman said she met with Brandon Fire Department Captain Dan Flood, as well as Township Building Director Bill Dinnan and two representatives from the engineering firm Hubbell, Roth & Clark, to assess emergency access to Sarah's Way on Tuesday. Flood determined that the road could be accessed by emergency vehicles if the need arose. An engineer from HRC will send a letter to Enbridge relative to correcting silt issues, Thurman said.

"There is some silt that is accumulating, but not really affecting drainage to the extent that it prohibited the water from taking its normal course from the downpour we had," she added. "We had a lot of rain and there is flooding everywhere. The primary reason is because of the extreme weather event, or there would not be damage to the road... Enbridge has not changed the water course; however, due to construction they have increased the rate the water is traveling. It was raining so hard, water would have gotten there anyways and forcefully enough to go over the road. In addition, there is evidence of silt building up in the ditching from Enbridge. I expect them to remedy that."

On Thursday morning, Thurman said HRC had contacted Enbridge and requested minor ditch maintenance in four locations to alleviate flooding from occurring in the future. The plan will remove silt from ditches. HRC also asked Enbridge to place a load of gravel where the road washed out, but Thurman said the homeowner's association for Sarah's Way and Cook's Trail had already repaired the road Wednesday.

"The rain event we had has caused flooding all over the township," Thurman continued. "Not only has it caused flooding, but it's making potholes worse. We called Road Commission, they are doing all they can, they only have so many workers on staff and can't be everywhere at the same time. We haven't had to close any roads. Sarahs way one of the worst areas to be affected that has been brought to our attention."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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