River ice gets blasted in Sebewaing
Feb. 21--SEBEWAING -- It wasn't that loud and it wasn't that spectacular, but officials used explosives to break up ice this week on the Sebewaing River.
The village, working with county, state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials, used a series of small explosions to crack up the ice from the mouth of the river to the marina, according to Duane Dressler, superintendent of the village Department of Public Works. He said the ice was cracked to prevent ice dams and flooding to the village and farmers up and down the flood plain all the way back to Tuscola County.
Dressler said charges were set below the river ice at intervals of 100 feet -- for about 2,900 feet of the river.
The Huron County Drain Commission, which falls under the Huron County Road Commission, helped execute the procedure. According to drain commissioner Gary Osminski, the county has employees that are certified in the use of explosives and has the ability to obtain those explosives on an as-needed basis. He said the county purchases similar explosives for use with the removal of old bridges as well as beaver dams that are blocking drains, if needed.
The ice breakup was originally planned for Thursday. But a forecast of rain made officials change their mind.
"With the threat of heavy rain, they wanted to do it today," Dressler told the Tribune on Wednesday.
"We're trying to protect the village from flooding. Thirty percent of the village is in the national flood plain, he added.
Osminski said the village used to flood quite regularly in the 1940s before a levy system was installed to ease the problem. Back then, dynamite was used often to break up the ice.
Dressler added that small synthetic explosive devices -- not dynamite -- were detonated under the water Wednesday, which created blast sounds ranging from a "big blub" to a shotgun-like bang.
The explosives used are a two-part mixture involving powder and liquid. The parts are then mixed together and ignited by a small charge, called a cap.
About 20 homeowners and businesses, located on the river, were notified ahead of time.
The explosions cracked the ice, but did not send debris flying.
"It makes a wave, kind of like being on a waterbed," Dressler said. "The last time we did this was 2001, that was my first year as superintendent."
Osminski said no other county river has needed the ice fracturing since he became drain commissioner 12 years ago.
Dressler said the operations cost $2,000 to $3,000, and part of that will be paid by the Army Corps of Engineers.
With the broken ice, Dressler said winter sports enthusiasts should be aware the river ice is no longer as steady as before.
"Recreational users should stay off the river," he said.
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