Feasibility study underway for fate of dam, pond

By: Robin Ruehlen | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 24, 2013

BEVERLY HILLS — Whatever fate lies ahead for the Erity Dam and adjoining pond, it is likely to be a costly one.

The question is, who will be responsible for funding the cost of either repair or removal of the structure, and the necessary cleanup that would follow?

Village Manager Chris Wilson said a feasibility study and sediment testing now underway by engineers Hubbell, Roth & Clark will provide more accurate numbers for the possibilities of a special assessment on the homeowners who share property with the structure and the pond,  a village-wide millage, or the eventual removal of the problematic right spillway.

In a Dec. 13 report to the Village Council, Wilson wrote that, should the village and adjoining residents be able to secure funding for the repair of the spillway, “it would be in the best interest of all parties to have the Oakland County Water Resources Commission operate and maintain it in the future.” 

Without funds to make the necessary repairs, however, Wilson said the the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will eventually order a drawdown of the pond “to prevent the sudden release of all material in the pond at Riverside Park into the Rouge River,” thus returning the river to its natural course over the left spillway.

Constructed in 1913, the dam consists of two spillways: the left is east of Evergreen Road and was deeded to the village in 1968, and the right is west of Evergreen. The dam creates the 27-acre millpond area, including portions north of Riverside Bridge. Both have been in disrepair for years — and as noted in a May 2013 report by HRC, “if left in their current state with no maintenance or dam removal, the structures will ultimately fail.”

Wilson said sediment testing is a routine procedure in the case of ponds or lakes created by dams.

“We need to see if that material behind the dam is able to be removed and taken to a landfill. If it is contaminated, we would need to do some kind of secondary treatment, which would be more expensive,” he said.

Should a drawdown be ordered, the village would be responsible for covering those costs, as well.

President Pro Tem Walter Briggs said that, although he’s not sure what direction the village will take in regards to the dam, he believes taking more time to study the situation is the right idea.

“Now that we’ve sorted out the ownership facts in terms of division of responsibility, the next issue is to understand what costs are relative to repairing the right spillway, and the alternatives to that should it prove cost-prohibitive,” he said.

“We need to work with the residents to determine the most appropriate course of action. Those who live in the area realize what’s going on, but I think others who live on the east side might not be as aware of the potential impacts. We don’t know how either scenario would be financed right now.”

Wilson said the study and the results of the sediment testing should be completed in early 2014.

“I’ve had contact with multiple homeowners who are obviously concerned about this, and so far, it’s been a pretty good working relationship,” he said.

“The best-case scenario is we come up with a solution that property owners are happy with and will serve the village well in the future.”