Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 21, 2013

Property owners sue over flooding

TRAVERSE CITY — A group of Boardman River property owners filed a lawsuit over removal of the Brown Bridge Dam, saying their property values dropped when the river’s water levels rose.

The owners, all of Boardman Plains Road, contend in the new lawsuit that an Oct. 6 breach during the dam’s removal caused floodwaters to badly damage their properties. One of the plaintiffs, David Hoyt, said he and his wife, Pam, continue to struggle with mold issues at their residence. They are also convinced their home is now at greater risk for flooding.

“This was our dream house,” David Hoyt said. “We always wanted to live on the river … but when we get those weather conditions with lots of rain, it’s really, really scary.”

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs also includes property owners Phil and Barbara Reneaud, Shelley Wesley, Edna Wilder, and the Boardman Plains Homeowners Association. The suit names as defendants the city of Traverse City, engineering firm AMEC, Molon Excavating and the Boardman River Dams Settlement Agreement Implementation Team. Chuck Lombardo, spokesman for the team, said “the matter has been referred to the attorneys and insurance carriers of the parties involved.”

Not everyone agrees the removal of the dam left riverfront homeowners more susceptible to flooding. John Wyrwas, a resident with property on the Boardman, disputed claims from some homeowners that flooding on the Boardman this spring — the first since the dam’s removal — was more extreme than in the past.

Wyrwas said he’s seen worse, noting flooding in 1991 that sent water up over his yard.

“What we are having now is just normal,” he said in April.

What is undisputed, though, is that the drawdown of the Brown Bridge Pond did not go as planned during the dam’s removal. The 170-plus acre Brown Bridge Pond was supposed to be lowered gradually. Instead, a construction device known as a temporary dewatering structure failed, sending much of the pond into the river at once. The flooding swelled the river, damaged 66 properties and threatened bridges.

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