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Village moves forward with recreation plan; MDEQ pleased with dam work

August 27, 2014 - Goodrich- Plans for a village parks and recreation plan needed to seek funding for long-term improvements to an aging village dam will move one step closer next month.

The village council, along with the public, will discuss the plan for a variety of projects, but especially for upgrades to the village dam.

The plan will be discussed at the Oct. 13 village council meeting. A public hearing will be announced.

"The village recreation plan is the first step in helping obtain funds from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources," said Jackie Sidge, village administrator.

The village paid planners to create the plan about eight years ago and are now in the process of making updates. The plan identifies recreation areas and specifies potential areas of expansion and goals for the village. In 2011 the village requested Atlas Township to join in the plan; however, they declined.

"To apply for grants there needs to be a plan," added Sidge. For park enhancement money or any type of funding dealing with recreation, a plan gives the community more points to reach that goal. There needs to be long term goals and a plan that provides the base to go after much needed dollars—part of which could be used for the mill pond."

For example, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program administered in Michigan by the Department of Natural Resources on behalf of the National Park Service, awarded $695,000 December 2013, split among 10 communities in the state.

"We fixed what needed to be fixed with the dam for the short term," she said. "Now we work on long-term projects and begin to establish funding."

Moving forward with a dam and mill pond project will continue despite a class action in the Genesee County 7th Circuit Court filed on behalf of 16 village residents and three Genesee County businesses claiming, the operation of the century-old dam was faulty.

The suit claims a lack of maintenance, inadequate repairs and upgrades, misallocatoin of funding, inappropriate and untrained operational staff, a significant lack of capacity and negligent design.

While discussion of the suit and how it relates to the future of the old dam and pond has been curtailed by attorneys on both sides—the case has been turned over to the Michigan Township Participating Plan, which represents the village. Premiums for the policy are paid for by taxpayers as part of the operating millage.

While the future of the village dam and mill pond are uncertain with regard to the pending lawsuit, for now the environmental officials say there's time.

Lucas Trumble, Michigan Department of Enviromental Quality dam safety engineer, says the old dam is fine for now.

"(The village) has done a good job of taking care of the dam and taking the needs of the structure seriously," he said. "They have been within the law and we are happy with the progress. The old structure is more stable now. We understand there is some debate over the dam, we are going to stay out of the battle. Any project including removal is going to cost money," he said. "A lot depends on the amount of contamination, if any, and volume that has been deposited by the dam."

Trumble added that contaminants built up in the sediment around the dam.are often a big concern of the MDEQ. Testing the sediment, which could be many feet deep, is a major cost in dam modification.

"I would be surprised if there were elevated contaminants near the Goodrich dam—I just don't expect it," he said. "There's not a lot of industry upstream on the Kearsley Creek. I would be more cautious if there were paper mills nearby, but there still would need to be tests before a dam is modified or removed. Streams carry sediments and do accumulate around old dams over time."

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