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Ottawa County Water Resources Commissioner

Hiawatha Drain

Project Description

The Hiawatha Drain is a 2-square-mile area within both Grand Haven Charter Township and Port Sheldon Township that needed significant flooding relief. When the Drain began experiencing flooding after heavy rains a few years ago, the Ottawa County Water Resources Commissioner and its partners wanted to provide protection from the 100-year storm event, and to consolidate the storm water runoff in a manner that allowed for efficient maintenance of detention ponds and the drain.

Prein&Newhof did a drain study and storm water analysis and proposed a solution: open drain through three private easements with detention to a positive outlet to Little Pigeon River. This would provide the greatest benefit for less cost. The solution also included 2.6 miles of infiltration and drainage swale, 0.4 miles of enclosed storm water piping, and three detention and infiltration basins.

The project was also designed as an enhanced habitat corridor swale. A vernal pond (temporary pool of water), coastal plain marsh area, and the swale itself provides breeding, nesting, and foraging sites for a variety of reptiles and amphibians, including several rare and declining species. A balanced design used the fluctuating water table and sandy soils for increased infiltration and groundwater recharge. These elements are important to the types of plants and animal species that thrive in these habitats.

The design included several alternative routes crossing through overgrown and wooded areas not easily accessed. Using simple and useful GIS tools and Google Maps, the project team could evaluate each route and easily find their location in the field on their smartphones. This ultimately saved money in design, during clearing, and with project staking. The final route was chosen to avoid existing pocket marshes and rare ecosystem areas found in the Natural Features Inventory. One half-mile of the drain was ultimately located in a Consumer’s Energy easement that was easily accessible and only needed minimal tree trimming and grading to construct.


Dana Burd, PE
Project Manager


Innovation and Excellence Award, Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners, 2019