The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Clearing the drains: Aiming to improve flow

Written by David Green.


When the banks of ditches and small streams become overgrown with trees and shrubs, and small islands appear in the meandering channel, the usual response is to bring out the heavy equipment and clear the banks down to the soil and do some dredging.

That’s the typical course of action in many Michigan counties, but it isn’t the case everywhere.

In some locales, stream restoration projects are initiated—methods that handle flow problems without dredging and denuding the banks. It’s a matter of understanding how rivers function and allowing the water to handle the corrective action—along with some assistance from engineers.

crekk-clean-vertical A typical drain cleaning project calls for the removal of all plant growth on the stream bank, explained David Mitchell, an engineer with the Lenawee County Drain Commission. Minor dredging might be tackled to remove a sandbar, but since drain maintenance is limited to an expenditure of $2,500 a mile, dredging and bank reshaping is not part of routine maintenance.

Expenditures are held in check because costs are shared by everyone in the drain watershed—whether or not they had an interest drain cleaning.

As an example, Mitchell said, the cost of work underway on Silver Creek at Ridgeville Road, will be shared by property owners from Morenci up to Brown Road where that drain district begins. In total, 845 parcels are included.

A property owner often makes a request for drain cleaning, but in this case the drain superintendent identified the need while driving through the area.

The cost of the Silver Creek project is not yet tabulated, but notices should be sent soon announced the size of the special assessment for each property owner involved.

“It’s a large district and the cost per parcel will not be very large,” Mitchell said.

Property owners within the city of Morenci who are assessed should expect a charge of about $5. The assessments will be added to winter tax bills.

A review is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 13 to give property owners the opportunity to examine their assessment.

“If somebody feels their apportionment is not fair, they have 10 days to appeal in court,” Mitchell said.

If the cost of a proposed project exceeds the maximum allowed for maintenance, the person making the request must file a petition for the work by collecting the names of five other people within the district.

The reason for drain cleaning is to improve the work of the drain or creek.

“We want to get the water flowing out of there,” he said.

Trees and brush on the banks collect other debris in the creek and work to slow the flow, Mitchell explained.

Farmers will sometimes request work to help their field tile outlets operate efficiently. Tile outlets buried under silt prevent drainage.

Once the banks are cleared and sprayed with an herbicide, vegetation is allowed to return on its own. Seeding of grass takes place only if banks are reshaped and expanses of soil are exposed.


George Palmiter, a pioneer of restoration techniques developed in the 1970s, approaches a project with one goal in mind: Let the river do the work.

Palmiter worked as a railroad switchman, but he was also an avid canoeist who spent a lot of his free time on rivers. He gained nationwide attention for his techniques designed to restore the hydraulic capacity of streams without resorting to channelization and removal of riparian (stream side vegetation).

Trees are left in place—and some are even planted—for three reasons. Trees provide shade that reduce the growth of aquatic plants that tend to retard water flow. Shade also lowers water temperature in the summer, to the benefit of aquatic animals. Trees also anchor the bank, and the leaf litter provides a food source for aquatic life.

Palmiter removes logjams, or in many cases, cuts out the center and allows the buried ends to deflect water to the center of the stream. Eroded banks are often stabilized with logs, bundles of brush and planting of vegetation.

Bank corrections are made by removing selected trees and shrubs where the stream is too narrow. If the stream is too wide, current deflectors are created with natural material. This allows the river to clear out sand bars on its own. This also changes the flow characteristic in problem areas, such as severe bank erosion.

Palmiter’s changes mimic natural processes, allowing silt and sediment to wash out of the stream channel and end up in flood plains or in slow flowing stretches of the stream.

Palmiter was lauded by the U.S. Corps of for emphasizing the importance of shade along waterways. Without shade, Palmiter found, streams fill up with weedy, sun-loving aquatic plants that contribute to slowing water flow. Over time, an open stream will require more human intervention.

Removing all plants also destroys the habitat supporting aquatic life, along with the natural beauty of the steam.

Mitchell said he was not aware of Palmiter’s methodology.


In 2000, a comparison between the usual clearing and dredging method and restoration techniques on Mill Creek in Michigan’s St. Clair County.

A study showed an increase in the water flow rate in the restoration areas after Palmiter’s techniques were put into action.

In the dredged areas, sediment began collecting in the creek bed as soon as four months after the work was completed. Algae and weeds were returning to the dredged sites within five months.

Support for aquatic life was rated excellent only at the sites that were never dredged, and the rating remained excellent after intervention using the restoration methods.

The quality of the habitat ranked lower after dredging.

Subsequent studies indicated continuing river health in the portion of the river that wasn’t dredged.

- March 17,2004 

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