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Walker Drain, Allegan County Drain Commissioner

Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners (MACDC) 2016 Innovation & Excellence Award Winner

Project Name:
Walker Drain

Client Name:
Denise Medemar, Allegan County Drain Commissioner

2012 – 2015

Allegan County, Michigan

The now picturesque Walker Drain bears no resemblance to the steep, unstable, dangerously eroded banks that for years caused torrents of unfiltered water and tons of sediment to flow directly into one of our nation’s greatest treasures—Lake Michigan.

This scenic section along the banks of Lake Michigan is now part of the Walker Drain Drainage District and falls under the jurisdiction of the Allegan County Drain Commissioner (ACDC).

Concerned about excessive erosion of valuable lakefront property, Ganges Township filed an application and a petition with the ACDC for a new drain. This resulted in the Walker Drain project and the hiring of Eng., Inc. and Quantum Construction.

Gaining access to the lakefront property required three easements, a DEQ permit, and an Army Corps of Engineers permit to work on the bluff over Lake Michigan.

The primary concern of the project was a dangerous washout of a bluff into Lake Michigan. To stabilize the eroded bluff and channel, underdrains were installed to the length of the open drain. Next, a layer of geomembrane liner was installed to isolate the natural seepage of groundwater from the water directed down the gabion baskets. Eng. designed the gabion baskets to be installed in an overlaid step pattern to slow the velocity of water as it travels down the bluff—minimizing erosion and maximizing filtration.

The project team needed to cover an elevation change of 50 feet in a linear distance of only 250 feet. Further complicating the design, in the time between final design and construction, the water level of Lake Michigan rose to cover 80 feet of beach, eliminating the area planned to dissipate directed runoff at the base of the gabion baskets. Additional challenges included the direct impact on Lake Michigan, balancing the natural groundwater seepage that occurs along the lake bluff with directed runoff, and construction during the winter months.