Community Members Fighting to Keep Blanchard Millpond Filled, Despite DEQ Safety Warnings

It’s been a landmark pond in one northern Michigan community for decades, and now people are fighting to keep it.

They’re fighting the DEQ, who says the body of water isn’t safe right now.

The Blanchard Millpond, in southwestern Isabella County, has been dry for the last few months.

In October, the dam at the millpond failed.

The stop logs rotted away.

It sat empty up until last week, when someone replaced the logs.

“It was just a refreshing thing to see it full of water after a long few months of ugly, stinky muck.”

That excitement was short-lived. The DEQ is already in the process of draining it again since technically, this fixed dam isn’t legal. 

“In Michigan, the legal requirement is that an engineer who has been licensed by the state, designs and oversees the repair of the dam, and as far as we know, no engineer was involved,” explained Byron Lane, Chief of Hydrologic Studies and Dam Safety at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Right now, the Rolland Township supervisor and the DEQ are working together to find a short-term solution.

“We’re going to allow the millpond to be drained one more time so that we can do a thorough inspection of the apparatus that’s there today,” said Rolland Township Supervisor, Daniel Shaw, “If the inspector can give us information or a solution to the situation maybe a repair, that can work temporarily, then we’ll go with that.”

Community members don’t agree with this idea. So much so a petition has been circulating around Blanchard. 

“To drain it again seems like a big mistake. Leave it the way it is, let’s figure out a better solution but why in the mean time drain it and go back to muck?” said Kimberly Smith, who started the petition.

the DEQ says they understand people’s concerns but safety has to come first.  As for the millpond’s future, the township supervisor says they’re already looking into plans for that too. 

“I know the goal of the board is to have a long term, permanent solution to the millpond issue and I think we’re going to come close to that real soon.”

Many community members say as tax payers, they don’t want to be burdened with the costs of long-term replacement.