By DAVID GREEN
A question on the Lenawee Conservation District survey about Bean Creek [reported in the March 4 Observer] asks this question: Do you think Bean Creek should be made a designated county drain?
What would that status mean to Bean Creek?
If the river were designated a county drain, property owners could petition the Lenawee County Drain Commission for projects such as erosion control, dredging and the removal of fallen trees.
If a project were approved by a drain commission board, adjacent property owners, with drainage leading to Bean Creek, would help pay for the project.
But is that likely to happen?
“We have no interest in doing that,” county drain commissioner Steve May said. “It would be a very monumental task.”
The first step would be to obtain a petition with signatures of at least 50 percent of the landowners adjacent to Bean Creek in Lenawee County. Since a portion of the river flows through Hillsdale County, the effort would become an intercounty project with Hillsdale’s involvement, also. An enormous number of property owners would be involved in the effort.
If the signatures were ruled valid, May’s office would initiate a study to examine the watershed. A three-member board of determination would make the final judgment. Any property owner could appeal the decision in circuit court.
The cost of a drain project would be assessed to property owners in the watershed and apportioned according to the benefit received by each one.
Rather than designate the entire river a drain, a portion of Bean Creek could be placed under the drain commission’s jurisdiction, but that’s not an approach favored by May.
“Would I do a quarter mile or half mile of Bean Creek? I would say no, it’s probably all or nothing.”
If work were done in one section, the inability to address another area could cause additional problems.
“All the work you did upstream could be negated by not being able to work downstream,” May said.
Property could be reached through a condemnation process, he said, but that leads to other problems.
Certain areas, such as a nature park, could be excluded from maintenance, May said, and the commission would have no jurisdiction to work on it.
“Groups have invested a lot of time in protecting natural features,” he said. “There are natural features that we all appreciate.”