OWOSSO — After years of litigation and negotiations, the Misteguay Creek Intercounty Drainage Board — comprised of Shiawassee, Genesee and Saginaw counties — is moving forward with a multi-million dollar project.

The main portion of the project will repair dikes in Saginaw County that have eroded.

“This project is basically flood control for 15,000 Saginaw County residents,” Shiawassee County Drain Commissioner Tony Newman said.

The project has faced multiple lawsuits and legal challenges over the cost and scope of work.

In 2011, a Genesee County Circuit Court judge dismissed a civil case filed against the Misteguay Creek Intercounty Drainage Board by a group of area townships hoping to prevent the multi-county project from moving forward at all.

Caledonia, New Haven and Hazelton townships in Shiawassee County; Clayton, Montrose and Flushing townships in Genesee County; and Maple Grove Township in Saginaw County all joined in a suit in Genesee County’s 7th Circuit Court.

According to Newman, the project has been held up more recently because of Albee Township in Saginaw County.

“Albee filed suit about three years ago because they didn’t like the limit of the project. They wanted to add a bunch of stuff in there that didn’t benefit Shiawassee County. They lost in circuit court in Saginaw but they appealed,” he said.

He said after the court loss in 2018, Albee Township submitted an agreement to the Misteguay Intercounty Drainage Board that added some aspects to the project, including installing flap gates, dam repair and relocating a road. The agreement was accepted.

“We did not vote for it, Saginaw and Genesee counties did because it was adding the flap gates back into the project and a few other things that we didn’t agree with. Flap gates are these great big gates that open when the water gets low and shut when the water gets high; it’s side drains in Saginaw County that dump into there.”

Newman, who is not taking part in board deliberations because he is a landowner in the drainage district, is opposed to the project in its entirety and said the goal of the project is to prevent flooding in Saginaw County.

“There’s nothing that we’re doing that’s going to benefit Shiawassee County. It’s important to remember that all the work is being done in Saginaw County,” Newman said.

The Ionia County drain commissioner is sitting on the board with the Saginaw and Genesee commissioners in Newman’s place.

Albee Township petitioned for the repairs. However, all townships and landowners in Saginaw, Genesee and Shiawassee counties within the Misteguay Creek Drainage District — not just Albee Township — will be assessed for the project cost.

He said after much negotiation, Shiawassee County residents will pay 36 percent of the total cost of the project, Genesee will pay 46 percent and Saginaw will pay 18 percent.

What that means in dollars is still to be determined. The project is currently open for bidding and bids are due back June 25. On that Tuesday, the board will unseal the bids at a meeting in Albee Township.

The board bid out the work in three sections, the dike work, the flap gates and the work on the dam.

Newman explained erosion has occurred on the dikes on about a 4-mile stretch of drain that spans from near Gary Road to just past Verne Road in Saginaw County.

Because the dikes have eroded so much, officials are concerned the drainage district could be faced with a lawsuit if someone was hurt, which would cost more than it would to repair the dikes.

The erosion of the dikes also is bad for the environment, with more sediment being swept into the drain, and eventually into the Shiawassee River and the Saginaw Bay.

An engineering study completed by the Spicer Group in 2010 addressed problems along the entire drain.

The worst damage to the drain is between Verne and Gary roads.

The drain is divided into three sections. The upper section drains Genesee and Shiawassee counties.

The middle section is an area that includes three dams, and serves part of Venice Township, and all of Hazelton and Maple Grove townships.

The lower section is entirely in Saginaw County and is the area where almost all of the major repairs are planned.

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