Thank you to Mr. Harold Datema for the following article:




The Grand Rapids Press Sunday June 13, 1976 SECTION B Editorials Opinions


DNR Vows to Prosecute Big Star Lake's  
'Midnight Ditch Diggers'


By Don Ingle

    BALDWIN - Much to the chagrin of property owners and government officials, a group of "midnight ditch diggers" has taken matters into their own hands to drain excess water from  Big Star Lake near here.

    Twice in the past two weeks, unauthorized narrow ditches have  been gouged during the middle of  the night only to be plugged up  a couple days later by Lake County road crews.

    Officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources  vow to prosecute those responsible  for the ditches - if they  can ever be identified.

    Between 400 and 500 homes are located around the popular resort lake near the northern Newaygo County line.  About 35 of the homes are either submerged in water, surrounded by water or uninhabitable because of overflowing septic tanks.

    At the request of affected homeowners and based on studies by a private engineering firm, the Lake County Board of Commissioners applied last month for a DNR drainage permit   under the Inland Lake Level Act of  1961.


On May 20, the DNR granted a conditional permit that allowed for the drainage of excess lake water via Jenks Swamp and into Jenks-Kanaher Creek, which empties into the Pere Marquette  River.

    However, some property owners objected to the permit on  the grounds that the DNR overlooked its own recently adopted policy when it failed to notify all residents and parties which an interest in the proposed  drainage project.

    One such interested owner was   the U.S. Forest Service,    which  owns much of the swamp and forest area into which the discharged water would flow.

     Jack McArdle, deputy forest supervisor of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, said his office had not been notified of the project by the DNR.  He also expressed concern with the potential impact of introducing warm, nutrient-baring water into the Pere Marquette River System, a cold-water trout stream.

    The Pere Marquette Rod and Gun Club filed a protest with the DNR asking that the proposed   drainage project be delayed until  a full environmental impact study was prepared


and a formal hearing had been held.

     The club's protest was filed by  A. Newton D8illey, a Grand Rapids attorney.

     As a result of the objections by special interest groups and private landowners on the grounds that they were never properly notified, the DNR rescinded the conditional permit.

    And then on May 29, water from a three-foot wide, five-foot-deep trench began to flow out of Big Star Lake.

     Three days later, two DNR officials were at the trench site, where they determined that water was flowing from the lake at a rate of five cubic feet a second and would increase rapidly as the sandy banks eroded.

    The trench was plugged on June 4.  But at some time that same weekend, the ditch diggers had struck again.  The flow of water was blocked off for a second time last Tuesday.

    A DNR official said the Big Star Lake Property Owners Association, two county agencies, and owners of adjacent property have all denied digging the trench of knowing who did it.



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