Union County officials have found more than 130 log jams in the 33 miles of Mill Creek in Union County. Officials say the log jams are damming up the creek and causing it to flood around the county. Pictured above is a closeup look at one section of the logjam. Below, is an aerial photo showing the various sections of Mill Creek which are blocked by fallen trees. (Photo submitted)
Local officials are preparing a plan to deal with flooding in the area.
Jeremy Burrey, drainage maintenance supervisor for the Union County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and staff have been investigating the extent of the logjams in Mill Creek since 2018. They have found that large logjams have been a continual growing problem for the last decade. Logjams in Mill Creek have caused water to back up and flood area fields, property, ditches, even roads and streets.
SWCD officials floated down the creek and flew a drone over the creek, identifying more than 130 logjams of varying sizes and more than 6,600 dead or leaning trees in the 33 miles of Mill Creek inside Union County.
Burrey said the flooding and erosion have become more evident, and the problem “will not go away without someone going in there and fixing it.”
He said property owners have been encouraged to remove the logjams on their own property, but they must follow the rules that govern “waters of the state” for logjam removal.
Burrey said the size of the jams and flooding has gotten to a point where it needs to be addressed.
He said officials want to move heavy equipment to the creek and remove dead or leaning trees from the actual creek as well as from the bank. Removed logs will be stacked along the creek.
Burrey said the plan to bring a crane to the creek is one used by other counties dealing with similar issues.
“We have pulled a lot of our knowledge from them,” Burrey said.
Officials estimate the project will cost between $700,000 and $1.1 million.
“We are doing our best to make this as cost effective as possible and still get the job done,” Burrey said.
While they have a plan to deal with the logjams, what they don’t have are details about how they will pay for the plan.
The project will be a county ditch petition project and as such, construction and maintenance cost will be assessed to landowners within the watershed.
Officials say they could take the project’s total price, and divide it between all parcels in the watershed. Or, the price could be divided equally by the total number of acres in the watershed, then assessed to each property owner based on the number of acres each has.
Additionally, the price tag could be weighted toward property owners who get more direct benefit from the fix.
Burrey said the county could also consider “a combination” of payment options.
Complicating the math is that the City of Marysville has agreed to use its stormwater fund to pay for the portion of the creek that flows through the city. The city’s bill will depend on which method officials decide to use to pay for the project. Of the 12,360 total parcels in the project area, 7,960 parcels, or about 64%, are inside the city.
While the majority of the parcels are inside the city, they account for just 11,860 acres, or 19% of the total 63,843 acres in the watershed.
Based on preliminary estimates, the city could pay anywhere between $130,000 and $709,000, depending on the project cost and how the project is billed.
Burrey stressed that numbers are only preliminary estimates and will “very likely be different” by the time the project is finalized.
Burrey said there is a preliminary plan that is currently being reviewed by the county engineer. As part of that process, officials will determine a better cost estimate for the project. Property owners will be notified of the plan and the cost as well as of an opportunity to make their thoughts known to the Union County Commissioners.
“If there is not a lot of public support for this, it could impact the commissioners’ decision,” Burrey said.
Following the public hearing, the commissioners will need to give final approval for the project as well as decide how it will be funded.
“Ultimately, the Union County Commissioners will make the decision,” Burrey said, though he stressed there is a process and a lot of people including engineers, environmentalists and property owners will have a say.
Officials are hopeful that if the project moves forward, they will have agreements and design completed so they can begin work after crops are removed from the fields next year.
“If everything goes according to plan, the goal is to have people on the ground in 2022,” Burrey said.
He added there are still “a lot of moving pieces and with a project of this scope, there are a lot of things to consider.”