by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
The five- to seven-inch deluge of rain that occurred this past Memorial Day not only caused three major washouts and the closing of a two-mile section of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail (WPT), but also threatened the 24-inch Rockford sewer line that runs parallel to the trail itself within the right-of-way.
On average, the sewer pipe daily carries a whopping 700,000 gallons of raw sewage on its way from Rockford to the North Kent Sewer Authority Sewage Water Treatment Plant (PARCC Side) on Coit Avenue in Grand Rapids’ northeast side.
Regularly ensuing heavy rains since Memorial Day have further eroded the damaged sections of the WPT. At the same time, the underlying and adjacent soil was being further destabilized, placing additional pressure on the sewer line. With the pristine Rogue River flowing just below, one can only imagine the environmental havoc that would result from a rupture of the huge sewer pipe.
Rockford City Manager Michael Young has been on top of this situation from day one. He has tasked the City’s Department of Public Works (DPW) to daily monitor the situation along with opening clogged drains and placing straw bales to inhibit further erosion.
“I felt the City should not sit on its hands, but rather, be proactive from the very beginning. We could not afford to sit idly by and do nothing. It turns out we absolutely took the right actions. Without our remedial work, the heavy rains that have since followed may well have ruptured the pipeline,” said Young.
All the work thus far is only temporary. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) has accepted the seriousness of the situation, but at the same time is “wringing its hands” to find a source of funding for a $60,000 engineering study and an estimated $250,000 for permanent repair.
Monday, this week, we learned from Dave Heyboer, chairman of the Friends of the White Pine Trail, that a “white knight has ridden to the rescue.” The Kent County Road Commission will provide the engineering, labor and material needed to temporarily stabilize the affected area of the trail. The City of Rockford, Plainfield Township, and the Friends will reimburse the county for expenses incured. The City of Rockford’s portion is $10,000. “If all goes well, work on the trail began Tuesday of this week. The trail could possibly be re-opened for use by Friday [July 2],” said Heyboer. “There may be gravel sections for some time to come, so plan accordingly.”
Speaking of the City of Rockford and its DPW, along with the Kent County Road Commission and the DNRE, Heyboer added, “This is another example of what happens when good people get together with excellent intentions and open minds.”