Gun Lake Protective Association
The History of The Cuddy Drain
The Cuddy Intercounty Drain is a 6+ sq mile watershed and the largest tributary into Gun Lake. It enters Gun Lake from the west passing under the Patterson Rd. bridge. It started as a nameless spring-fed coldwater creek that drained Mill Pond, Boot Lake, and Round Lake; but as it was straightened (1951) and agricultural drains added to it over the last hundred years, it became the “Cuddy Intercounty Drain” because it begins in Allegan County and ends in Barry County. Most folks refer to the residential section of 100+ homes east of Patterson Rd as the “Cuddy Channel”
Unfortunately, because the Cuddy drained hundreds of acres of farmland, it traditionally delivered a lot of E. coli into Gun Lake – enough so, that in the ‘90’s, the Michigan DEQ declared its “base level” to regularly be 1000+ CFU’s/ml. The DEQ warns to not have body contact with water carrying over 300 CFUs/ml, so this was a long-standing and unhealthy problem. The Cuddy also was fast-slowing, so carried woody debris and eroded sediment downstream, where it either plugged up the culverts at the Patterson Rd bridge causing damaging floods (1997 and 2013), or simply made the western portion of the Cuddy Channel unnavigable and the floating debris was a safety hazard to boaters.
In Feb 2013, a group of Cuddy Channel residents formed the “Friends of the Cuddy Drain” after learning that the Patterson Bridge was going to be replaced with a much wider span, which would simply add to their downstream problems. They drew up a plan, requesting they be protected from woody debris and sediment; and that the E.coli be reduced, among other things. The Cuddy Channel residents worked with the Drain Commissioners, the County Engineers, their elected representatives, the Project Engineers and the Environmental Engineers – to design a project that shored up eroded banks, cut back trees and shrubs that could fall into the drain (plus add sunlight to help kill E. coli); and reopen a pre-existing Sedimentation Basin to slow the water, trap sediment; and again expose E. coli to more sunlight. Upstream remediation went on through the summer of 2016; the new Patterson Rd bridge opened in November of 2016; and downstream channel dredging went into the following Spring.
The remediation worked. Tons of rip-rap (large rocks) were added to stop erosion along the banks of the drains, culverts replaced, an easy-to-clean debris barrier was erected, the Sedimentation Basin was dug out and opened – and subsequent water tests showed the E. coli levels had dropped to SAFE levels. In 2019, this project won an “Honorable Mention in Innovation and Excellence” by the Michigan Ass’n of County Drain Commissioners!