Beaver dam removal raises concerns from MDEQ

LINCOLN — The removal of a beaver dam from Cedar Lake to control lake levels by the Alcona County Road Commission has drawn the attention of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Managing Director Jesse Campbell said the order to remove the dam came from the Alcona County Drain Commission attorney and county Prosecutor Tom Weichel. The road commission acts as the county’s drain commission, Campbell said.

He said the dam’s removal came from a written order based on a law concerning county drains from 1940 drafted by Weichel. This was after complaints from residents about the dam impacting water levels. The structure was removed earlier this month

Road commission workers removed the dam over three days, entering private property to do so. The action resulted in several complaints by the public, he said.

Campbell said he was contacted by DEQ officials Monday about the removal.

“The reason the MDEQ came over is whenever you do this you cannot have a prescriptive easement. We were in a wetlands, we were not in a county drain, we didn’t have jurisdiction,” Campbell told the board.

He said according to DEQ officials there is a certain method that must be followed for the county to legally remove such dams.

“They are requiring a court order to go into any wetlands or land that is not deeded over to a county drain. The DEQ is stating that they don’t care what the drain code said in 1940,” Campbell said. “(The DEQ said) we have a requirement that you have to meet even before you go to that drain. Next you need to have written permission from the landowners, if you do not have their written permission you don’t have any right to go on there. It’s not a deeded drain and you must notify the conservation officer for your district. They must be notified within 10 days.”

Campbell said the issue was that the work conducted went off the order from the prosecuting attorney.

“There is going to be an argument here,” Campbell said, adding he agreed with Weichel that there is a responsibility by the countyto maintain the area.

“We should have stuck with our guns and got a court order. We wanted a court order but it puts the county at liability,” he said. “But the DEQ said we’re even more liable because we didn’t have a court order. I’m just letting you know that there is probably going to be some trouble, we’re going to have to make some policies that we need to have a permit and things.”

Chairman Alfred Scully said the road commission should not shoulder all the blame for the issue.

“We were specifically instructed to follow an order by the attorney who was appointed,” he said. “He strongly wanted us not to use a court order.”

Campbell asked whether he should follow the advice of Weichel or the DEQ.

Scully said they should follow Weichel’s advice.

“In the meantime if we’re instructed to do it by our attorney we pretty much have to do it,” Scully said.

After discussion Campbell said he would discuss the issue with Weichel and come back with a recommendation for the board at a future date.

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.