Hitching The Horse

It was the last opportunity to save what has become a part of the region and potentially stave off what I see as potential financial cataclysm.

Some of Their (the board members and IT members who are working diligently towards removal) Arguments:

  1. We have had an open process
  2. The public has had input with over a thousand people involved
  3. Our constituents would never vote for a dollar towards this
  4. We are ‘repairing’ a damaged river.
  5. We have too much time into this to turn back
  6. If the brown bridge dam breaks it takes out the Boardman and Sabin
  7. We have gone over this and the experts we have hired say to do it
  8. We want a faster river
  9. We want trout all the way down
  10. The property values will go up
  11. Recreational revenues will increase.
  12. We will have a NEW and DIFFERENT type of biodiversity
  13. It costs too much and will continue to cost future generations
  14. There is money to take them down, and no money to repair.

My own argument following the numbers.

  1. The ‘open process’ is driven by professionals who make their living on tearing out dams.
  2. The public has been merely placated with a kangaroo committee process that leaves them unable to object and keeps the ball rolling towards the ‘designated’ end. (removal of the dams) The starting of the process included the city of Traverse City’s voluntary surrender of a FERC license which was an ASSET. It forced an additional cost of over $500,000 for re-licensing if ever the dams would be used for power generation again. That raised the bar for removal opponents.
  3. They would not allow the vote for a millage on this, which [of course] proves them right.
  4. A damaged river that has been this way for nearly a century. Which has had a community grow around it in the way it is now. Which has vast areas of emergent wetlands and unique species of plants and animals not found easily elsewhere.
  5. Even if it might not be such a good idea? What if we see a greater dollar amount cost to the community later? In for a penny in for a pound perhaps. The term I prefer is: Good money after bad.
  6. True. Very true. However, a strong Brownbridge (city owned though) would also check 50 and 100 year floods. In my opinion, you can say goodbye to Logan’s Landing without some serious modifications or consideration for river velocity. In fact, the truth is, that even though over $2,000,000.00 has been spent to forward the removal process, (IT process) no one has yet performed a full hydrology test on the path of the river. Engineering has been done ONLY to determine the cost of removal, repair, and variables surrounding those options. The impoundment changes has also been documented by the engineers for an assessment of wetlands change and mitigation.
  7. The “experts”, or at least the engineers provided a great analysis which could be used to look at options that could be chosen. Either way, the costs appear to be represented fairly, and depending on other variables, the decision to go forward based on the engineering ALONE is merely a matter of what we value.
  8. A faster river is an exciting prospect. Wow wouldn’t that be great? Except we will STILL have to look at that pesky union street dam. It will slow the river down just like the others did. Well.. Maybe. I refer to #6, and how a 100 year flood might affect the region without checkpoints. As I have pointed out we have built our community AROUND the river in the state they are in. Though it might seem that might not matter, a slower river has a different biology, and is less likely to cut into embankments. Be ready to move some things.
  9. “We” is a number of anglers who do not feel like traveling to other trout fishing locations, and would rather change the river closest to them.
  10. Actually, property values in some places might, and in others will not. If you had a home on the water, and the water receded away so that exposed bottom lands were like a moonscape, and topping it off you don’t even own those lands between you and where the water now is… how does that help values?
  11. The numbers say $3,000,000. What no one is saying is that ‘economic benefit is over a period of 30 years. (in today’s dollars)
  12. New and different. Though the loss of 80 acres of wetlands in between Boardman and Sabin dams will have immediate and devastating effects on loons, swans, Golden eagles and plant species, the new wetland species have yet to be discovered.
  13. To repair the Boardman and Sabin dams it would have cost under $500,000.00. This would have to be revisited over time by future generations.
  14. Dovetailing with the above: $500,000 to repair, and $3,000,000 to remove these same dams. EXCEPT.. the removal will leave parts of them which we will have to deal with later. Total removal estimated by the engineers to be almost $10,000,000. I guess when we get there, we’ll find that out. Already over $2,000,000 has been spent simply trying to get this done. And there has not even been a hydrology study for the effects on the river near roads of critical areas. The money to remove is from multiple sources, including what MIGHT come from federal monies. Given the nature of our federal fiscal health, all bets are off in my view.

Somewhat like the CBO having information given it with regard to health care, the engineers (ECT) could only comment on those things given to comment. The outcome and its true cost being borne by taxpayers is yet to be seen.

No one likes to be wrong. One might think I hate to lose.

I don’t have a problem being wrong. But I expect a demonstration of reasoned decision making. The process I have witnessed in only the short time of being commissioner, has convinced me that this is a mirror of how government plods forward on such issues. The big thing that drives the commissioners, is wise use of the taxpayer funds they are responsible for. I get that. My fear for some of them, is that they see the investments made already, and feel it would ‘waste’ those efforts and the expense made on those efforts.

This is in my view, a flawed reason to proceed.

Alternately, some might think the information provided to them is complete. Some had attended other sessions long before I had even considered running for this position. Its possible there were things discussed that are not in the minutes of some meetings, or were not presented in report format but was absorbed by the commissioners present. (telepathy perhaps?)

I asked early in my investigation on this issue about the Hydrology testing. “We haven’t gotten to that part yet” has been the standard reply. Given that might be the most important part of whether this can go forward in the end anyway, it suggests one thing to me:

The cart appears to be pulling the horse.

And I am not surprised.

1 comment for “Hitching The Horse

  1. Norbert Tutlis
    September 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Time for some news concerning the permit lost by city and county.

    Have you heard the one about the hot dog guy..
    Once upon a time this little guy, call him hot diggety dogs tried selling hot dogs using the license he earned for military service in vietnam and issued by state of michigan through county clerk, now it seems traverse city, garfield township and grand traverse county health dept. did all in their power to keep him from selling his hot dogs. Interested, call me and I will give you chapter and verse. 929-2928 and thank you

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