OTISCO TOWNSHIP — An Ionia County lake in jeopardy of seeing its lake level drop significantly is on course to receive repairs on a dam that will properly maintain the lake level for another 30 years.
Ranney Lake, located in the upper northwest corner of Ionia County just south of the county line and north of Belding, is a private lake with approximately 14 lots surrounding it.
But a recent assessment has found that the dam maintaining the lake’s current level is in disrepair, and Ionia County Drain Commissioner John Bush estimates the dam may only have a few years left before it fails completely.
“The only reason that lake is there is because of that dam,” Bush said. “It’s getting up there in age and is made out of steel, which has rusted out over the years.”
According to Ionia County Commissioner Lynn Mason of Belding, because Ranney Lake is a private lake, there is no lake board to make a decision as to whether repairs on the dam should be made.
Therefore, a petition for the establishment of an inland lake level for Ranney Lake had to be signed by two-thirds of the lake residents and submitted to the Ionia County Board of Commissioners.
That petition was received, and a resolution was passed on July 24, 2012, accepting the petition and for the submission of a preliminary study for the establishment of a lake level.
That assessment was completed and after a review of the study, the board voted unanimously on Jan 8 to adopt the Ranney Lake Resolution that will authorize Bush to initiate action in Circuit Court that will set the Ranney Lake level.
According to Bush, by following this course of action and creating an assessment district, the dam will be paid for by all residents of Ranney Lake, as opposed to the one property owner who owns the land where the dam resides.
“One of the first things they have to do is decide who is going to run this lake level,” he said. “Now that the board of commissioners has passed a resolution, the decision will be brought to Ionia County Circuit Court. The prosecutor will make a decision after hearing testimony from an engineer stating where the level should be set.”
According to Bush, once the lake level is set and signed by the county prosecutor, the Ionia County Drain Commissioner would be in charge of maintaining the lake level, allowing maintenance and repairs to the dam to officially commence.
“Once it is court ordered, the drain commissioner will be in charge to build a new structure (dam),” he said. “The dam will then continue to be inspected every three years.”
Bush said the new dam should last another 30 years and will be built with plastic.
According to Bush, once the new assessment district is established, everyone with property on the lake will be required to pay for a portion of the dam based on percentage of how much lakefront property they own. He estimates the total cost to be around $37,000.
Owners can petition the decision once a hearing is held in Circuit Court if they so choose.
“The whole reason they wanted to establish a lake level on Ranney lake is because they (property owners) couldn’t figure out how they wanted to pay for a new dam” he said. “This court order will require everyone to help pay for it.”
Mason said Bush had four options to choose from in regards to the fate of the dam, including letting it break, which would severely diminish the lake level, but she believes that was not an ideal option for the property owners living on the lake.
“I think this was a win-win all the way around,” she said. “There are at least nine different property owners on the lake and I don’t think any of them want to lose that lake.”