The duties of the Antrim County Drain Commissioner are very limited. Antrim County has only one legal drainage district around Birch Lake that was established as a legal mechanism to fund a pump system to transfer sewage from the lakefront homes to the Village of Elk Rapids' waste treatment plant. With no other drainage districts, the Antrim County Drain Commissioner has virtually no statutory duties under the Michigan State Constitution. Nevertheless, in a quirk of State law, Antrim County is still required to have a Drain Commissioner.
Drainage issues related to roadways, including roadside ditches, culverts, etc., are the responsibility of the Antrim County Road Commission. Drainage issues related to established watercourses fall under the authority of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Water Resources Division. Contact the Antrim Soil Erosion officer to report water diversions or flooding that result from construction activity.
History of the Position
Many years ago, the County Board of Commissioners decided to assign the Drain Commissioner some non-statutory duties. Specifically, they delegated the operation of the Bellaire and Elk Rapids Dams and provided a small salary for the work. As time wore on, the responsibilities of the job grew.
Administrative duties at the Bellaire Dam were added, which include dealing with long term maintenance, construction projects and meeting the regulations set by the Dam Safety Division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Later, the management of the Elk Rapids Hydroelectric Dam was assigned to the Drain Commissioner. The Elk Rapids facility turned out to be an administrative tangle of poorly written contracts, huge financial liabilities and an ongoing budget loss for the County.
It took many years to sort out, but the Elk Rapids Hydro now operates at a small profit. Eventually, the County opted to renew the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) license for the Elk Rapids Hydroelectric Dam which required an immense administrative effort. The job of running the dams had reached a point where it needed to become a permanent County position. (At this point, the duties of the Drain Commissioner were almost entirely non-statutory and supervised by the County Board of Commissioners—yet still performed by an elected official.)
After many months of work, the County Board of Commissioners formally created the new Department of Dams and formed the position of the Operator of Dams as a non-elected County employee. The County Drain Commissioner position still exists, but the salary has been reduced to $500 per year and the Drain Commissioner no longer is involved in managing the dams.
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