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Coldwater River residents need to deal with EGLE for dredging

Posted on March 27, 2024

Plans to dredge the mouth of the Coldwater River on the west side of Coldwater Lake hit another snag after Branch County Drain Commissioner Mike Hard learned last week his office did not control the river.

Residential lot owners along the river complained that the water had silted in over the last couple of decades, making it difficult for larger boats to enter Coldwater Lake.  They asked Hard to do the work.

Hard had told the 12 to 15 lot owners in the last two months, he learned he might have authority as drain commissioner to do the dredging.

Hard thought the drain commissioner could act after a petition in 1961 to declare the river “a legal drain” was filed with the lawsuit which set the “legal lake level” of the south chain of lakes.

Hard said after consultation, “Our attorney said the county did not follow through with the process.”

As a legal drain created before the 1970s, the commissioner and owners thought the drain commissioner controlled projects along the waterway without the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy permits.

Hard suggested since the river is not a “legal drain,” it would be easier and quicker for the property owners along the river to proceed with EGLE on their own.

“The Coldwater River is definitely due for maintenance, not only the widening of the mouth but especially the north shoreline. There need to be stones to support it,” Hard said.

A spokesperson for the property owners, Dean Genter, told the county commission work session on March 7 that those along the river want the channel opened to 30 feet, the width stated in the property easements on record.

Hard had expressed concern about using the legal drain process for the work since all the owners along the south chain of lakes from Marble to Coldwater Lake would be assessed for the cost of the work under state law. The dredging mainly benefits those along the river.

Hard said the process of creating “a legal drain” for the lakes and rivers could continue, but under current law, EGLE would still control permitting for work along the waterway.

Hard only learned of the 1961 legal drain petition after his office began to go through record books stored in the county annex. “We thought they were duplicates of records we had,” he explained.

None of the record books are indexed; most are handwritten. The drain commissioner’s office is now reviewing all the records found.


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