Sanford residents looking forward to having lakes restored

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 7:24 AM EDT
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SANFORD, Mich. (WNEM) - It has been more than two years since the collapse of two mid-Michigan dams drained the lakes they once held back.

The lakes have remained dry, but nature is wasting no time reclaiming them. The beds of those drained lakes are now teeming with vegetation.

“You wouldn’t be able to fish that lake with all that vegetation in there,” said Gregory Grissel, Sanford resident.

Grissel is looking ahead to the day Sanford Lake has water again. But the dry lakebed and the dry Wixom lakebed have become overgrown since the water drained after the Sanford and Edenville Dam failures of 2020.

The body overseeing the lakes’ restoration, the Four Lakes Task Force, is planning an aerial attack on the woody growth that has vigorously reclaimed the bottoms of the lakes. Because the growth, if left unchecked, will cause issues for anglers and boaters.

“You wouldn’t be able to fish through that cause you got to get your line, your hook, everything’s got to go through that, that vegetation. That’s never going to make it through. You wouldn’t, it’s just be getting snagged all the time,” Grissel said.

The state department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) recently issued permits allowing aerial treatments for mainly cottonwoods, willows, and aspen using the herbicide Vastlan.

“I’m hearing some of them popular trees or whatever they are down there are growing five feet a year,” Grissel said.

The treatments will occur on a relatively small number of dry lakebed acres to evaluate the effectiveness on the trees and brush. The evaluations will provide guidance for an extensive treatment program early next summer.

The Four Lakes Task Force said the herbicides being used on the vegetation on the lake bottom will not affect the trees or grass on owners’ properties.

Along with the spraying, workers have been cutting down the vegetation and removing stumps in preparation for the return of the water.

“I was afraid of the lake a little bit because it’s hitting the stumps. It’s expensive to fixture your outdrive on your boat,” Grissel said.

The window for helicopter low-altitude treatments in the open lakebeds is expected to begin this week. It is estimated the treatments will be completed on Sanford and Wixom Lake in two to four “good weather days.”

According to the Four Lakes Task Force, work on stabilizing the Sanford Dam is expected to wrap up in October. Also that month, construction bids are expected on the Secord and Smallwood dams’ restoration projects.