Cemetery Head Stones Threatened By River 5-23-2011 - WNEM TV 5

Cemetery Head Stones Threatened By River 5-23-2011

A battle is gearing up between two unlikely Mid-Michigan opponents -- a river and a local cemetery. And as TV5 found out, the river appears to be winning.
Now officials are looking to implement a plan to help the cemetery fight back. Cemeteries are supposed to be quiet, serene places, unless one is located next to a river that’s path has recently been changed.
"We had erosion to start with, but it's just increased the volume of it," said Chesaning Township Trustee Bill Hedrich.
Two years ago, a large portion of Sharon Road collapsed it to the Shiawassee River. The fix for the road seems to have accelerated the erosion process along the cemetery.
"They left an island down there and that's kind of … speeding up the river,” said Hedrich. “It's like putting your finger over a hose and increasing the pressure, and it's eroding our banks."
Officials said moving the graves would be a costly effort, involving miles of red tape. However, the other alternative seems to be growing in cost with every rain fall.
"The first bid when the engineers came out here before the rains, it was about $67,000,” said Hedrich. “Since then, we've had two more bad rains and it's eroded our banks much more, so now we're up to $152,000."
The plan is to cut the trees on the bank to relieve some of the pressure, leaving the root balls for stability. Then they will create six "veins" out of rock to lessen the force of the river on the bank.
"Then they're going to rebuild the bank and put a shelf down there to help stabilize it," said Hedrich.
Part of the urgency is that the 30 to 35 affected graves are inat stake in one of the oldest parts of the cemetery. Graves there date back to the 1800s and finding next of kin might be hard.
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