It appears that a big mess that has caused problems in several areas of the Kalamazoo River in Comstock Township, downtown Kalamazoo, Parchment, and even areas further downstream, is being abandoned by the people who are responsible for it.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) says that Eagle Creek Renewable Energy has ceased all cleanup efforts while sludge and sediment continue to devastate the ecosystem.

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It all started when the energy company, which operates the dam at Morrow Lake in Comstock Township, lowered it in November 2019 for what they called "emergency repairs" to a gate. The drawdown allowed over 365,000 cubic yards of sludge and sediment to be released into the waters. Since then, deposits have built up in massive sections of the river, narrowing it in some spots and causing an environmental disaster altogether. And some of that sediment has now made it all the way to Plainwell and Otsego.  Local anglers, kayakers, and environmentalists say it has negatively impacted recreation on the river as well as fish and other wildlife populations.

The Kalamazoo River Alliance, a local community organization that is trying to raise awareness about the poor condition of the river in general in the Kalamazoo area, has been trying to sound alarms about this since they formed. They voiced their frustration with Eagle Creek and Michigan government in a Facebook post-Thursday morning, calling leaders to take action now.

In March of 2020, local and state officials put pressure on the company to get moving on cleanup efforts, and for a while, it seemed like they were beginning to make a little progress. In June of this year, Eagle Creek Renewable Energy was supposedly going to get moving faster on the cleanup after more pressure was put on the company about its mess. At that time, they said they would accelerate dredging efforts with two projects. One downstream from the dam in Comstock Township and the other near the Kings Highway bridge in Kalamazoo. The company also said it would map 30 miles of river between Parchment and Lake Allegan to log additional deposits.

But for most of the summer and fall, there were hardly any signs of progress or evidence that anyone was working on it. On Thursday, it was pretty much confirmed that perception is reality after EGLE confirmed that the company's cleanup work had ceased, even though EGLE had called the problem "urgent" earlier in the year to try to move the needle more on getting the sludge and sediment out of the Kalamazoo River.

We reached out to Eagle Creek Renewable Energy and the company declined to comment, as they have with several other media outlets regarding this latest news.

The state of Michigan says it is still looking into any and all options on the table to force the cleanup to happen, even legal action.

 

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