Oakland Township files lawsuit against Clinton River Watershed Council

At the August 12, 2014 Oakland Township Board meeting, the Board unanimously approved authorizing the Township attorney to file a ’cause of action’ suit against the Clinton River Watershed Council (CRWC).  This suit was reported in the August 27th Oakland Press.  Here is a link to the brief article on the Oakland Press website.

Oakland Press article

The Board’s reason for the suit is that they allege the CRWC breached a contract they believe the Township had with the CRWC regarding the Paint Creek Dam removal project. The CRWC is a non-profit organization that worked with the Department of Natural Resources to eliminate the dam on the Paint Creek.  The State of Michigan has established dam removal as a priority to improve the habitat and quality of the water in our streams and lakes.  The millrace is not considered a natural stream since it was created years ago to divert water from the Paint Creek to the Cider Mill location.  After the dam was removed, the elevation of the water feeding the Paint Creek Cider millrace was lower, as was expected.   

There are several individual properties that the millrace runs through.  When the dam was removed, water no longer flowed through their property.  The property owners claim that their property values have been diminished as a result of the dam removal.  One of the main reason that the water no longer flows down the millrace (in addition to the dam removal) is that the millrace has years of sediment buildup.  

Bob Yager, the Oakland Township resident that had been publishing ‘The Oakland Township Sentinel’, had pulled together a historical summary of the Millrace Project going back to 2011 based on Township records.  It is a lengthy document. A shorter summary is included later.  Here is a copy of Bob Yager’s document:

dam-millrace-history-bot-2011-14

I reviewed that document, and put together a simplified summary of the chronology of the millrace issue.  It is three pages long, but captures the key issues raised through September 2012.  

Millrace Chronology Summary

In reviewing the documented history, it is clear that the issue of years of sediment buildup in the millrace was raised several times.  In fact, the Clinton River Watershed Council raised that concern at the September 13, 2011 meeting.  Clarifying whose responsibility it was to dredge the millrace was never addressed.  The Clinton RIver Watershed Council never agreed that they would dredge the millrace.  Without the dredging of the millrace, it should come as no surprise that the millrace went dry (water does not flow up hill!).  

The affected citizens have been major supporters of the current Board.  The millrace issue played a role in the current Board being elected.  Many of the Board members ran on this issue in their campaign.

The Board only took 2 minutes to discuss and authorize the legal action.  Here is a video of the Board’s proceedings: 

As more information and court documents become available that information will be posted on this website.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Certainly the desirability of having the millrace transfer water to the Cider Mill could result in the Cider Mill wheel turning once again. This would restore some of the character of Goodison in our Township.  However, the major reason water is not flowing down the millrace is the buildup of many years of sediment in the millrace.  The fact remains that water will not flow down the millrace until the millrace is dredged.  The dredging requirement was raised long before the dam came down, yet no one appeared to determine whose responsibility is was to do that.  The previous Cider Mill owner appeared to solve the problem by placing ‘boards’  to raise the water level feeding the millrace.  This clearly has an impact on the creek’s water level for upstream residents.

Hopefully our Township attorney’s opinion is on ‘solid’ legal ground, and we are not proceeding just for the Board’s political reasons to appease a very vocal number of residents impacted by the dam removal.

If our attorney is not on ‘solid’ legal ground, his recommendation, and Board’s action will not only have destroyed any working relationship between the Township and the agencies involved, but will add to the coffers of his Legal firm, AT OUR EXPENSE!  It would probably have been cheaper for the Township to pay for the dredging of the millrace (we have already incurred many thousands of dollars in legal fees on this issue). The initial estimate for dredging the millrace was $250,000.

When we are all done, we may spend considerably more than $250,000 and not have accomplished ANYTHING.

Richard Michalski

19 thoughts on “Oakland Township files lawsuit against Clinton River Watershed Council

  1. Marty Rosalik

    The dam should never have been removed. There was no evidence based reason to do it. Yes the sediment build up is an obstacle that exists with or without the old dam. However, even with sediment removal there will be NO water in the race unless the race is extended a long way up-stream. The race needs to be re-graded and engineering elevation drawings now exist. I have been proposing a volunteer effort using small backhoe like implements and dump trailers to excavate the private property sections to-grade. Many township residents like me have access to tractors and equipment. The home owners along the race could help. So can others like me.

    Now back to the lawsuit. CRWC will have the responsibility to find a way to get water to any re-graded race. It is in the contract!

    Reply
  2. disappointedresident

    Contract? What Contract? If the mill race owners cared so much about the mill race, they should have been maintaining it all along, not illegally adding boards to the top of the dam so that water could get high enough to flow over the built up sediment that has been there for DECADES, therefore, flooding their neighbors properties upstream. What about the $100,000 that the Board has ALREADY spent on this? CRWS is not the problem! There is MUCH more to this story then Oakland Twp. residents are aware. It’s ALL gonna come out now!

    Reply
  3. Marty Rosalik

    Cleaning out and re-grading the mill race floor is a different issue here. CRWC and the old board members accused the “junior engineers” of being wrong. Those so-called junior engineers were right. There is NO water near the head gate at the beginning of the race. The “deal” was supposed to provide restored water there not overcome decades of sediment. This whole mess is the doing of past fools now out of office largly because of this folley. We now have this new board because of their actions. If this costs a Million dollars, so be it. I for one will always place blame on CRWC and the old board. Maybe now future boards will listen to a large resident turn out. The old one did not on Harvest Corners, Blossom Ridge, or the mill race. Everyone is free and somewhat duty bound to speak out about issues here. This was my 2 cents.

    Reply
  4. Paul Morales

    Marty,
    The Previous BOT recognized that the Fair Housing Act trumps local ordinances. They refused to adhere to the rhetoric of militant disregard to laws that the BOT had taken an oath to abide. The new BOT has ignored the rule of law , equal opportunity and the 14 Amendment.
    The Mill Race legal costs are chicken feed as compared to the liability and legal costs instilled by the new BOT by their direct intentional disregard of State and Federal Fair Housings of which Township ordinance(s) are clearly subordinate.
    Mr Rosalik, you can still hang your laundry outside and shoot your gun in the backyard. Elderly/ Disabled Housing does not violate or infringe upon your civil rights. [This is in direct response to your irrational post in the Patch 2 years ago.]

    Reply
  5. saveourtwp

    A MILLION BUCKS!? Really? That’s all this spend thrift reckless board needs to hear, don’t worry, they will spend it. But you or I, nor the poor mill race will have ANYTHING to show for it! It will just add more of our money to the incredulous Attorney Dan Kelly who is paid very well by the taxpayers to cover up the wrong doings of this board. Bottom line, before the dam was taken out, sediment was restricting flow, after the dam was taken out, the built up sediment is still restricting flow. Now, the mill race neighbors no longer have the option to illegally add boards to the dam to cause any flow at all, which was at the detriment to other property owners and the Paint Creek itself. I want the mill race to flow again too, but NOT at any cost and not by this board who has gone on the offense against the DNR and the DEQ by threatening to sue them to get out of the MS4 Permit that the Twp. has been at part of, like all surrounding communities for decades while simultaneously needed permits to move forward on any plan. What kid of sound governance is that? Completely irrational and reckless. Gonser can’t even get a permit to replace the deck at the Cider Mill because of the complete lack of respect and distain he has shown to the DEQ and the DNR. Terry Gonser does not know or care about collaboration or protecting natural resources, he only knows threats and unilateral decisions. Now, he has ruined the Twp’s relationship with the DEQ and the DNR and the CRWS that we need to get grants and permits, which, by the way, since this new board took over, is ZERO! Yes, over $100,000 has been WASTED by this board on this mill race padding the pockets of Dan Kelly and the engineering firm that Dan Kelly’s firm brought to the table. As long as this board and Dan Kelly is in office, there will never be water in the mill race.

    Reply
  6. Marty Rosalik

    There is NO water at the mill race head gate valve! The invert is too high in the pipe they installed. Water won’t flow up-hill from the creek. CRWC did not cause the sediment so enough! Sediment is a secondary issue and it is on private property. Another issue. CRWC and the old board did however enter into an agreement to restore water to a mill race that would need cleaning out! Simply put… they did not! Boards on top of the dam and Gonser are all noise here. I have seen the engineering drawings of what needs to be done to remedy the sediment. Some areas are almost 3 feet too deep. The engineering did prove that if the water gets to the head valve area, ( invert ) gravity will do the rest. That engineering might not be worth all the $100k but the work to survey and produce the detailed elevation drawings with inverts was much more than half that. Look up what invert means here in engineering terms for pipes in the ground.

    So until CRWC can show me water waiting at the mill race head valve, they are in breach of contract. I don’t care for Gonser, I’m not happy with Mr. Kelly but the actions of the old board got us to this mess with the new officials and the loss of the dam.

    Reply
  7. disappointedresident

    Nope, sorry, still doesn’t exist. But we DO have an actual written contract with Giamarco, Mullin and Horton that they have violated and overcharged on. We also have a written contract with ECT, the engineering firm GMH brought to the Twp. ECT has also violated their terms of the contract by NOT providing what they stated the would for the nearly $30,000 the taxpayers gave them on top of the $350,000 we have given to GMH. Not to mention the nearly $40,000 given to Wade Trim BEFORE ECT was brought in by GMH for the exact same engineering work. What fiduciaries of our money this Board is!! No, the NON PROFIT, CRWS is NOT the problem here, just the SCAPE GOAT for mis managing, mis calculating and mis informed decisions of Terry Gonser and the rest of the Board. They jumped the shark on this one!

    Reply
  8. saveourtwp

    Hey Marty, if the previous board’s decisions were so awful in your opinion regarding the mill race in allowing Huble, Roth and Clark (the engineering firm) to have access to the Paint Creek and mill race to remove the dam in an incorrect fashion, then WHY do you support the current board for hiring THE SAME engineers who worked directly under Huble, Roth and Clark as a sub-contactor who removed the dam in the first place? You guessed it, ECT, with Mr. John O’Meara as the ON-SITE foreman who over saw the project. That is who you just gave nearly $30,000 to on top of the original $155,000 in engineering dollars when the dam was removed. Look it up, it is all DOCUMENTED, not verbal. ECT is making out on BOTH ends with BOTH dysfunctional boards and was having PRIVATE meetings in a mill race resident’s home with board members outside of a public meeting. Like was said, there is MUCH more to this story.

    Reply
  9. Marty Rosalik

    So there never was any agreement written or otherwise to restore any water to the mill race?

    That’s your position? Let the courts sort this one out.

    Reply
  10. Marty Rosalik

    saveourtwp you are obviously confusing a painful level of tolerance with “approval”. Don’t ASSume I approve of what they do. The risk there is all yours. Next come what looks like a random number generator.

    $100,000 wasted in one post. Then $30,000 on top of $155,000 I’m lost here. But that is not my main concern.

    Restoring the flow to the mill wheel is the stated goal. Nothing more or less. At least this board is willing to do something even if possibly wrong. So no, had I known who was involved in the original destruction, I would have not liked it. I didn’t and that ship has sailed. I will play the hand I was dealt and try to help there be a constructive outcome. If you and the other anonymous mud slinger want to hurl dung about in every random direction that is your prerogative. I am still proposing a volunteer ( no cost to the township ) sediment removal in order to expedite this. Arguing with faceless persons with an axe to grind that obstructs clear rational thinking helps this NOT.

    Reply
  11. Marc

    Once again, the current board continues to waste time and money on a non-issue. There was never a contract between OT and the CRWC other than the CRWC helping to get grants for the cleaning up of the mill race due to years of neglect by the private owners.

    The former board only gave permission to have access to Twp property to remove the dam. It was a State project and the DNR had total control of the project in conjunction with the CRWC.

    Meanwhile, these few vindictive millrace owners, who were major supporters of the current board, have tried to convince the Twp that they should spend up to $500K of taxpayer money to clean up their mess.

    The CRWC is an awarding winning non-profit agency who has done an outstanding job of protecting the Clinton River watershed. The Twp was one of the first members starting in 1995 and the CRWC currently has 54 member communities. The new board refused to pay the $1000 membership or the $1500 storm education fee, and hence, are no longer a member.

    The decision making process of the board is now being determined by obsequious board members trying to curry favor with screaming malcontents who cannot be reasoned with. The facts are being ignored and this lawsuit will be tossed as it should be.

    Oh, and Marty the engineering was done correctly and was not a “debacle” as one of the board’s supporters repeatedly stated. Judy Keyes understood this and one of the finest Trustee’s the Twp has ever had was bullied and forced out of office. God bless you Judy for trying to seek balance and the truth!

    Marc Edwards

    Trustee for 22 years
    Planning Commissioner for 22 years

    Reply
  12. Marty Rosalik

    So Marc, there never was any agreement to restore flow? You and the others never told any residents that the flow could be restored if the sediment was removed?

    And sorry Marc but you created the mess by allowing the dam to be removed. You were part of an action that gutted a jewel of this township. That water flowing and wheel turning for all of my life is a large reason I bought land and live here. You wrecked it! And you seem proud of it.

    Reply
  13. richardjmichalski Post author

    Hi folks,
    As stated earlier by Marty, I think it is best to “let the courts sort this one out”. None of us have a complete set of facts. Hopefully the original post served the Oakland Township residents well by letting them know this issue is out there. As the issue works its way through the court system, we will keep the residents informed through posts on this website. Thanks everyone for your input and emotions around this very difficult topic.

    Richard Michalski

    Reply
  14. saveourtwp

    Courts, courts and more courts for Oakland Twp. since this new board took over. Answer to everything. Instead of working with others, collaborating and finding solutions, they only threaten, demand and attack. The DNR and DEQ had a limitless legal budget. CRWS has none as a non-profit. Disgraceful. This board pushed the state in a threatening manner, and they pushed back, a lot harder. So, onto the CRWS they go. This is why a mill race solution has gone no where. Supervisor Gonser has NEVER called or spoken with anyone at the CRWS since being elected. What kind of representation is that. It is much easier for him to spend other peoples money to keep the money flowing into the pockets of his good buddies and cohorts at our expense. So as Washington goes, so does Oakland Twp. Doesn’t matter Democrat or Republican, two wrongs will never make a right. Taking a bad situation and making it worse to align with a personal agenda and twisted ideology.

    Reply
  15. Pingback: Supervisor Gonser’s past unilateral unauthorized decision is causing unnecessary Township expense | Oakland Township Watchers

  16. Pingback: Oakland Township and Clinton River Watershed Council agree to a Settlement regarding Millrace lawsuit | Oakland Township Watchers

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