We hope you enjoy this abbreviated version of the
Serving Frankenmuth Since 1906
Vol. 113 No. 36 - In our 113th year!
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
TWIN STICKS: A pair of cranes from McNally-Nimergood and Muehlfeld Builders worked in tandem Monday afternoon to remove large branches from a willow tree located near the Holzbrucke. Some 75 trees must be removed ahead of this summer's Cass River levee improvement project. (News photo)
Approximately 75 trees are being cut down ahead of levee improvement project
It did not take long for Frankenmuth City Manager Bridget Smith to get accosted about the plan to remove trees along the dike or levee wall that borders the Cass River and shields downtown from flooding potential.
A passionate city resident met Smith and her husband outside the Frankenmuth High School gymnasium following last Friday’s district girls’ basketball game. She calmly explained what would happen to the city if the dike failed and pointed to an article printed in last week’s issue of the News.
Frankenmuth has been a Tree City USA designee for years and residents get up in arms when seemingly healthy and useful trees are thoroughly trimmed or taken down.
Improvements to the levee system have been in the works since 2008, when the city was notified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that the levee no longer meets required standards to protect it.
“I am a little embarrassed to admit that even though I’ve lived in Frankenmuth since age 15, I never contemplated the reason there was a large berm and wall between the river and the city. It wasn’t until I began my job here as city manager (about three years ago) that I understood that this is part of the city’s flood protection system – or levee,” Smith stated.
Last week, Smith learned the work needed to begin now, as Frankenmuth is part of a potential habitat for the Eastern Indiana Bat and the Northern Long-Eared Bat, both federally-protected species. Under protected species regulations, the city cannot disturb the natural habitat between April 1 and October 30. The bats like those trees which were planted along the dike decades ago.
With prime construction time in the spring through early fall, the trees had to come out prior to April 1.
Led by the Frankenmuth City Department of Public Works (DPW), Scott’s Tree Service and Muehlfeld Builders, the city began the project of cutting trees for the levee project at Eddie Zehnder Park on Wednesday, March 6. They continued south along Gunzenhausen Street (starting as the Fishermen’s Parking Lot) at Rosstal Street and completed this work up to the Main Street Bridge by Friday, March 8. They also removed smaller pine trees along the levee that borders the river from William and Annette Rummel’s home south behind the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Bavarian Inn Restaurant.
"It's a Tree City, this was a difficult pill to swallow but without the tree removal, we really would not be able to ensure that the levee could withstand a catastrophic event,” Smith pointed out.
A levee failure could flood downtown at depth between 7-11 feet, taking the downtown back to the pre-1950s when spring flooding was an annual occurrence.
Monday morning, March 11, the two tree services were attacking trees, including the willow trees, near the Holzbruecke.
“This will take 4-5 days. We will be barricading an area of Bavarian Inn’s parking lot to set up operations including large cranes, bucket trucks, chipper trucks and a chipper, log removing equipment and more,” Smith said.” Moving north, the cranes will move to the drive between the north and south Inn parking lots today (Wednesday) and Thursday.”
In all, about 75 trees will be removed. But why are stumps, 3-4 feet tall, still left behind? Smith has the answer.
"Ater the cutting of these trees, tree stumps will remain for removal by a selected contractor during construction of the levee improvements, sometime this summer. Trees need to be removed from the levee (berm) because their root ball is a risk to the stability of the soils,” Smith said. They cannot be ground down or only partially removed because decay from the stumps and roots could cause a levee breach.
Continuing, Smith posed this scenario:
“Imagine if in a natural disaster, high winds accompanying high-water levels were to pull one of the levee trees out by the roots. The opening has a potential for seepage and resultant breach of the berm. This is why the trees need to come out.”
After years of study, the city is ready to partner with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and local property owners to construct a new and improved levee.
“We anticipate bidding the project this spring. This will be the single largest, most disruptive construction project the city has ever seen. It will be horrible. It will be noisy. It will be messy,” Smith said.
Construction is planned for the summer months.
“The project is really just beginning. We will have much more information to share as our construction plans move forward.