Ripley flood-ravaged trails will stay closed

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette Rubble and the trees are pictured here knocked down, with the eroded section of Deer Track Trail in the background on the left.

RIPLEY — The damage to Mont Ripley Ski Area from the June 17 flood will not be repaired before next year, but long-term solutions are being worked on by both Michigan Technological University (MTU) and Franklin Township.

The area of Franklin Township uphill from Mont Ripley is mainly wetland, sectioned by roads and a railroad grade.

“What happens is it collects up there, and it follows the path of least resistance,” Franklin Township Supervisor Mary Sears said.

When the railroad grade washed out on the morning of June 17, it released an immense amount of water, which Sears says “excoriated” the ski hill, sending debris and water down into the streets and homes below.

“The volume of water was not seen before,” said Jake Guter, assistant director of planning and construction at MTU.

Since then, silt fence and rip-rap, or rock armor, has been put in place to stop further erosion on the hill, while MTU plans how to repair it. The emergency measures were inspected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when officials toured the site, according to Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, MTU’s associate vice president who oversees facilities management.

“They said, ‘Yep, silt fence is doing its job,'” Coleman-Kaiser said.

MTU is currently accepting bids from architect and engineering firms with geotechnical expertise to generate preliminary designs for permanent repairs. Coleman-Kaiser says once they’ve been selected, they’ll reach out to other concerned parties, like Sears at the township.

“We probably won’t be able to do anything until spring,” Guter said.

The township is looking for a hydrologist to work with, as well as consulting with FEMA and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Sears says she’d like to at least get the debris field cleaned up before winter. The township is also trying to restore sewer and water service to a couple remaining homes in Ripley.

“It’s so difficult to get estimates at this time because all of our construction companies are so busy,” Sears said.

Some contractors have declined to offer an estimate at all, because of the difficulty of working around the debris in the area and their other scheduled work.