TRAVERSE CITY — Shelley Wesley has never observed spring flooding like what she saw Wednesday morning in the front yard of her home on the Boardman River.
“I opened up the blinds and about fell over,” said Wesley. “The water was all the way up to the railway around my garden … it was all one big lake.”
Neighbors Phillip and Barbara Reneaud, who have lived a few houses down from Wesley on Boardman Plains Road for 39 years, said the same thing. Their yard was inundated with water Wednesday morning following a night of heavy rains. They blame the flooding on the removal of the Brown Bridge Dam.
“If we’d ... had more snow on the ground and some more rain at the time, I’d hate to think what would have happened,” Phillip Reneaud said. “The water would have been up over the road.”
Residents of this quiet, riverfront neighborhood firmly believe the Brown Bridge Dam removal is the cause of the river jumping its banks and sending the unprecedented amount of water flowing through their yards. It’s been six months since the Oct. 6 breach during dam removal flooded their properties and threatened public safety, and they intend to sue.
“I’ve lived here 39 years and I’m ready to walk away,” said Barbara Reneaud, whose rental cottage was destroyed by the fall flooding. “This is not the place it was. The river is not the same.”
Boardman River Dams Implementation team spokesman Chuck Lombardo said he sympathizes with anyone suffering from flooding this spring, but notes the removal of the aging, century-old dam actually reduced the danger of catastrophic flooding to those who live on the river. He said the potential for flooding was also the subject of extensive study prior to the dam’s removal, and the analysis did not show a significant threat of increased flooding due to deconstruction of the dam. The state of Michigan agreed with those assessments and issued the permit required for the dam’s removal.
“Concerns with flooding are always valid,” Lombardo said. “We understand their concerns and worries.
“The ground is saturated, and we’ve had a lot of snow (melt)and rain,” Lombardo said, adding flooding is occurring at several rivers throughout the state.
The National Weather Service put the Grand Traverse region under a winter weather advisory and flood watch through early today. John Boris, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gaylord, said areas from the M-72 corridor south were all placed under the flood watch.
“Those are the areas that have seen the most rainfall,” he said. “Most areas have seen one to three inches since Monday.”