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Crews work to fix flooding problems after ABC57 investigative report

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- Two days after a report from ABC57 news, road crews in Berrien County were working to help alleviate the problem. The issues in the Willo Valley neighborhood, off of Red Bud Trail, are two fold. There was a culvert that failed during the floods in February and there is a drainage ditch that has not been maintained for decades.

Thursday, a crew with the road department installed a new 15 inch pipe to carry the water under Willo Drive.

"At this point, we're hoping this new culvert will last 40 to 50 years." Jason Latham, Director of the Berrien County Road Department, said.

Latham says the flooding earlier in the year caused many culverts to fail. New pipes have been on back order.

"Now they're in and we're getting things in as we can." He said.

The other issue is where that culvert directs the storm water runoff. The drainage ditch that runs to a Lemon Creek is overgrown and needs to be dredged. Several complaints about the ditch were made to the Drain Commission. And while the ditch is a right-of-way that is supposed to be maintained by the road department, the Drain Commission assumed it was private property. It wasn't until ABC57 discovered that it was indeed county property that the information was passed along to the road department. 

Latham says he is in the process of getting the drainage ditch signed over to the Drain Commission so they can properly maintain it. That process could take a couple of months.

The previous story is below.

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- Flooding concerns in a Berrien Springs neighborhood has folks living there searching for answers. County officials have said there is nothing they can do to help alleviate the problem, but we discovered the issue may be with a county right-of-way that has not been maintained.

The issues are in the Willo Valley neighborhood off of Red Bud Trail. Homes constantly flood in that neighborhood. After the historic flooding in February caused a culvert to collapse, neighbors say the problems have been worse.

“What the county did was, they came in, poured a bunch of these rocks on it, put two cones on it and it hasn’t been touched since.” Matt Hunter, who lives on Willo Drive, said.

The water that’s supposed to flow through the pipe under the road is not flowing as it should. But, even once the water gets through, it ends up in an overgrown ditch that is supposed to carry the water to Lemon Creek. Water constantly backs up in the ditch.

“That would be their (the property owner’s) responsibility.” Berrien County Drain Commissioner, Christopher Quattrin, said.

Quattrin says his department is responsible for Lemon Creek. The ditch is not a part of their system. His department cannot legally do any work to the ditch. He assumed it was private property.

However, while examining physical maps in his office, ABC57 pointed out small writing on a map indicating right-of-way drainage. It turns out, that right-of-way is the responsibility of the county, just not the Drain Commission. The county road department is supposed to perform maintenance.

ABC57 reached out to the road department. Officials say they were not aware of the ditch either and will be assessing the problems soon. They explained the fix may not be done quickly and they may run into budget issues. There is a possibility that the road department may transfer ownership to the Drain Commission. If the Commission does the work, people who live near the affected area will be assessed for the cost of the maintenance.

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