MAILBAG: Who clears river debris?

Mark Brooky • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:47 AM

When logs, branches and other debris wash down the river and create hazards to boating, and possibly block entrances to bayous or get hung up on docks, sand bars or bridges, whose responsibility is it to clear the area?"


That's a good question, Bob, and one nobody really wants to go on record to fully answer.

Lt. Cmdr. Sean Brady, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Field Office Grand Haven, took a stab at it for us.

Brady said for navigable waters, such as the Grand River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for keeping the shipping lanes open. That's why they dredge the bottom of the channel every year so the big freighters can get through.

"Funding is always a consideration," added Tom O'Bryan of the Corps of Engineers' Grand Haven Area Office.

The Coast Guard is responsible for what floats on top, likes trees and debris. However, since Brady has been in charge here, he said the Coast Guard has yet to respond to that duty on the river.

Should the Coast Guard receive a report of a floating obstruction, it will be sent to the district level (9th District headquarters in Cleveland), where it is determined whether it is a hazard to navigation. That decision is based on 10 points (see Related Document below).

"A lot times, citizens move it out of the way," Brady said. "The Coast Guard will broadcast the obstruction (on marine radio channels) and post obstruction notices."

By the way, our question comes from Bob Lubbers, who is chairman of the Lloyds Bayou Lake Board. He said they have a bit of a problem with logs floating into the bayou from the Grand River and blocking their exit to the river.

"A log jam also creates sand bars, which further complicates the problem and they tend to collect other debris," he said. "A few years ago, the residents of Lloyds Bayou paid over $100,000 in special assessments to dredge our channel so we would have access in and out to the river. A few logs could ruin everything."

Lubbers also noted that, a few years ago, an ice jam formed around the railroad bridge during the winter. He said thousands of area homes and businesses were threatened by flooding.

"We certainly were here at Lloyds," Lubbers said. "Spring Lake Village, and maybe the township, too, started sandbagging here to prevent damage. As I understand it, the Coast Guard was in the process of sending up a large vessel to break the dam when it broke on its own."

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