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MDEQ says enforcement an option over Barry County sandbag violation

9-27 Crooked Lake 6p PKG.jpg
Glasby Lake in Sept., 2018. (WWMT/Carter Gent)

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Audrie Kirk said Barry County Drain Commissioner Jim Dull is required to remove the sandbags that created a dam along M-43 at Glasby Lake just east of Crooked Lake.

The issue revolves around the permit issued by the DEQ in the summer of 2018 that allowed Dull and the county to place the sandbags and install a pump near the site.

The pump was used to send water from Crooked Lake into Glasby Lake as flood relief.

The result, according to Larry Osborne, has been months of anguish for some property owners around Glasby Lake. Osborne said they have suffered water damage to their own homes and are now find themselves in need of relief.

"Those poor residents have suffered enough," Osborne said.

Osborne had been constantly contacting MDEQ, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and Barry County agencies for answers as to why the sandbags were still in place after the permit expired.

"I'm hoping the more information people receive the better chance we have of getting things corrected," Osborne said.

Kirk said the DEQ permit issued for pumping into Glasby lake was typically good for five years, however in this case it was set to expire much sooner, on Dec 1, 2018.

Kirk said the DEQ didn't push Dull and the county to remove the bags over the winter because lowering Glasby Lake levels could have harmed amphibious wildlife and caused property damage.

"Our concerns that we had in the winter are now gone," Kirk said.

Kirk said now the county is in violation by having an unauthorized fill in a wetland.

Kirk says there are five enforcement options moving forward if Dull and the county don't remove the sandbags.

First is what Kirk called an after-the-fact permit, where the county could ask for a permit to be issued after the fact in order to keep the bags in place.

Second, according to Kirk, is restoration, or essentially removing the bags and undoing the violation.

Kirk said the third option is a sort of administrative consent agreement where the county doesn't admit fault, but agrees to remove the bags and pays a fine.

The fourth and fifth options, the more extreme options according to Kirk, are taking the county to criminal or civil court if they refuse to remove the sandbags.

Kirk said not all of the options are used, but are something that can be chosen. The DEQ is working with the county to avoid any enforcement option.

Wednesday, Dull said MDOT ordered him to remove the sandbags because water from Glasby Lake was overflowing onto M-43 causing dangerous road conditions.

Dull said the cost to remove the bags would be around $10,000.

As of 1:40 p.m. Thursday, April 11, Dull had yet to respond to our questions about the DEQ's statements of his responsibility to remove the sandbags and let the water flow back into Crooked Lake.

CORRECTION: A line was added to clarify the enforcement options. Also, corrected an interaction between the DEQ and Dull.