Sewer Projects

THIS PAGE PROVIDES REGULAR UPDATES. The purpose of this page is to provide continued information and transparency on these projects.

May 11, 2021

Board Sewer Report 5-11-2021
Last week we were contacted by Congressman Bergman’s office and informed our request for a legislative earmark is now before the House Appropriations Committee. Under the EPA program for which we are seeking an earmark, the legislation would provide an 80% grant of the total project costs of 18.6 million. I emphasize that earmark legislation is very much a long shot, but worth taking.

Also, the Senate is preparing procedures to apply for earmarks. Senator Stabenow’s office will contact me when they have the procedures in place. Since the Senator is the Chairman of the USDA oversight committee, we may want to seek the maximum USDA RD grant of 45% which would be $8.37 million.

On Monday, May 10th, Performance Engineering had a preliminary application review with Mr. Blake Smith, USDA, Traverse City. This application encompasses residential sewer Phase 1 with properties north of Mack Ave (but not including Mack).We have a checklist of additional items to add, change or replace in the application that includes
 - Consolidation of Support Letters
 - Copy of original CAGE registration
 - Current Rate schedule with O&M Rate sewer/loan special assessment
 - Contract with Township attorney
 - Contract with Bond counsel
 - Update all financials and balance sheets
 - Update savings accounts
 - Update present day volume and connection info
 - Update environmental report
 - Update community activities section

I will have a workshop with Performance Engineering Friday at 10am to update these items. We must have the Phase 1 application accepted by USDA no later than May 21, 2021 due to the 60-day notice requirements.

DHD4 letter. A letter from the Health Department stating that 51% or more of the properties in the new sewer district could not meet present day code would give us 26 “points” of 100 towards our application. Without the letter, we would probably not get a grant. Performance Engineering conducted a “desktop survey” of the new district and presented it to the Heath Department for review (attached). Hopefully, this will provide the necessary info so DHD4 can issue the letter we need.

The Burt Lake State Park money remains an issue. Despite guidance from USDA Lansing to pass a resolution to earmark the funds for the commercial district, Mr. Smith continues to state that he will count that money as the township’s contribution to the residential district. It is apparent there is an internal problem within USDA. I have asked for a “meet and greet” with USDA Lansing. However, the Board needs to discuss a strategy on how to address this issue. Options includes formal letters, assistance from Sen Stabenow who is the Chairman of the USDA oversight committee and/or a broader meeting with USDA officials. In my opinion, we cannot allow funds from one district to finance another.

DHD4 Assessment

Assessment Map

Bob Kramer, Trustee, 5-11-2021

 April 30, 2021

Congressman Bergman seeks $18 million funding for local sewer project

Congressman Jack Bergman notified the township that he is submitting a $18 million residential sewer project to the appropriate Congressional committee for possible earmark legislation. The project would provide sanitary sewer service for almost 800 homes along or near the Sturgeon and Indian Rivers and Burt Lake. The township had the largest of the 10 projects selected in his district. Each Congressman also gets to submit 10 infrastructure projects. If successful, this amount would be an 80% grant from the EPA. However, the Congressman’s staff wants to make sure the community  knows this is a difficult process that may not be successful due to the high number of projects being submitted in the House of Representatives.  You can see all the projects that Congressman Bergman selected to move forward at his web site at

UPDATE April 16, 2021

The Township Board conducted a special meeting of the Sewer Subcommittee on Thursday, April 15. See the draft meeting minutes.

DRAFT Meeting Minutes April 15, 2021

A draft declaration of Committee Intent was proposed, and after some minor amendments, it was approved. Final statement:

  “Please be known that…

  This advisory committee, known as the “Sewer Sub-Committee”, was established by the Tuscarora Township Board of Trustees, with the sole intent of collecting information and making recommendations to the Township Board as a whole, concerning issues related to the present waste water system, known as “Sewer District-1”, and the possible expansion of the system to include and accommodate additional districts.

  Even though we have a quorum of the Board of Trustees, it is not the intent of this committee to make policy or to make any final decisions, nor do we have the authority to do so. We will adhere to all Open Meetings Act rules and laws, including encouraging pubic participation. We will publish committee meeting minutes on the Township Web site upon approval.

 The above declaration is in accordance with the advice from the Michigan Township Association.”

UPDATE April 9, 2021

The Township[ Board submitted a request for a congressional earmark to Congressman Jack Bergman (R-MI-01) for a 18.6 million dollar sewer project.  You can see the document here.   You can see the support letters fron local officials here.

UPDATE April 6, 2021:

The Township conducted a public hearing Tuesday, 7pm, April 6th, on its notice on intent to apply to the USDA for sewer loans and grants. Citizens comments were taken.

During the regular Board of Trustees Meeting that followed a project update was given.:

SEWER REPORT UPDATE, 5pm Apr 6, 2021

1. Performance Engineering will have their part of the application completed in a few days.

As soon as we upload our financial data and our Burt Lake State Park Earmark Resolution, we can apply for Phase 1 of the residential project, hopefully next week, right after the USDA release their Environmental Report.

Be aware that USDA has a scoring system to determine grant amounts. Based on factors such as financial health, Median Household Income, etc.

2. Request for congressional earmark draft completed to submit to Congressman Bergman for consideration. Awaiting support letters and health department letter.

3. SEN Stabenow’s office called today to inform us that the Senate has not yet decided on an earmark policy. They will let us know. Additionally, as the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Oversight Committee, her office will support our project through USDA.

The Board then passed a resolution supporting the earmark request to Congressman Bergman.

A Board sewer subcommittee was formed consisting of Supervisor Ridley and Trustees Vance & Kramer. The first subcommittee meeting will be April 15 following the noon special Planning Commission and Board of Trustee meeting. This meeting will be noticed and will be open to the public, as well as by phone or zoom.

UPDATE April 5, 2021: Board of Trustees Sewer Report by Trustee Kramer (click here)

UPDATE March 24, 2021



Tuscarora Township, Michigan intends to file an application for federal assistance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Rural Utilities Services. The project includes a Phase 2 expansion of the sanitary sewer system to a residential area in Indian River which includes an area north of Barbara Avenue, including Sturgeon Island, east of Burt Lake, west of Straits Hwy, and the near north side of the Indian River along Prospect, including Columbus Beach. A public meeting for comments will be held at April 6, 2021, 7:00 pm at the Tuscarora Township Hall, 3546 S. Straits Highway, Indian River, or if required by the State of Michigan, at a meeting held by electronic means at the same date and time, to discuss the proposed project and to provide the opportunity for public comment. Any additional information can be found in the “sewer expansion” section of the township web page at or may be obtained by contacting Tuscarora Township at (231-238-0970).

Background Information – Phase 2 Sanitary Sewer System Project

Over the years the need for a residential sewer system in high-density areas in around the Indian River, Burt Lake and the Sturgeon River has only increased. Demands on septic systems have changed significantly, with the typical household water usage having increased dramatically due to dishwashers, clothes washers, garbage disposals, more frequent bathing and retirees moving permanently to their “vacation home” in Indian River.

A community group (CHIRP – Citizens and Homeowners for Indian River Progress) was formed in 2017 by local citizens for the sole purpose of petitioning township government to support a cost study for a residential sewer system. The petitions were circulated to all property owners in the residential area west of Straits Highway, north of Burt Lake State Park, east of the Burt Lake, and Prospect Street along the north side of Indian River. This area is known today as the “Phase 2” sewer district, see attached map. This area consists of approximately 410 homes, 2 churches and two businesses. The petition to township government defined the area of interest which is zoned by the county as “P-LS,” Lake and Stream Protection District, due to most of the residences being with 1,000 feet of a body of water. The area consists of mostly older homes, some from the early 1900’s. Residents who supported the petition drive cited failing drain fields, noncompliant drain fields, the inability in some cases to meet existing code due to a lack of space for a replacement raised drain field and environmental protection. Eventually, the “Phase 2” area submitted petitions by the majority of property owners based on both individual properties and land mass. As the community effort continued, the Burt Lake Preservation Association and the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council supported the effort. Additionally, two other neighborhoods north and along the Indian River started their own successful petition drive with overwhelming support.

See attached map. As the community noticed our efforts, other neighborhoods also petitioned the township, with subsequent petitions rolled into “Phase 3.”

As a result, the Burt Lake Preservation Association donated $8,000.00 to the township, who then contracted a feasibility and cost study by Performance Engineering of Charlevoix.

In July of 2019 after the study was completed and accepted, the Tuscarora Township Board of Trustees determined that this citizen-driven initiative be authorized and directed that an application be submitted to USDA for grants and funding.

As of this writing, there have been numerous delays in submission of the application due to changing administrative requirements including the need for an archeological study approved by the Michigan Historical Preservation Office and availability of funds and grants.

It is the township’s intent to submit a complete application for Phase 2 no later than April/May, 2021. If successful, Phase 3 will then be pursued.

In Phase 2, the project will expand the modular existing sewer plant and install a gravity system with additional pumps in low lying areas near Burt Lake and the Indian River.

Phase 2 & 3 Map

UPDATE: March 2, 2021

The environmental report has been completed. This includes the archeological study which was holding up our application process. USDA has used 67% of the funds available. There may be more funding when USDA pooling occurs in August. Next steps:

1. File Phase 2 application with USDA (concurrently with Tribe review of environmental report, per Mr. Granskog, USDA). Mr. Ridley has the authority to direct the application be filed per Board resolution on July 12, 2019.

2. In the next month or two, determine if we want to seek a loan from EGLE for home hookups or refer individuals to the USDA 504 program which is 1% interest over 20 years, including grants for low-income over 62 years of age. (See below).

- USDA loan program is now at 1.75%. If residents chose to pay over 40 years, it could reduce the cost by as much as $150 a year. USDA may use our “Additional REU” fund as an offset in the awarding of loans or grants.

- Township filed notice of intent to apply for grant/loan with EGLE. EGLE determined that the township is not a disadvantaged community and therefore not eligible for a grant. However, Governor has put wastewater community grants in next budget. If passed, we would qualify.

- EGLE states that it is possible to apply for a project loan for sewer hookups to homes. Deadline is June 1st. Loan is 20 Years at 1.875% interest, 30 years at 2.125%. Upon approval, it can be pushed out to other FYs if the project is not ready for execution. Or residents can get a USDA personal loan for hook-up, 1% over 20 years, with some grants available for those who are over 62 and low income.

- Congressman Bergman’s legislative aide told us that the USDA RD wastewater program received more loan money than it requested this FY.

- Senator Stabenow’s aide discussed when and how to get the Senator’s support for a USDA project. Senator Debbie Stabenow is Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. This Committee has jurisdiction over agriculture programs, nutrition programs, and rural development.

UPDATE: At the August 6, 2019 regular board meeting, Supervisor Ridley informed the board that the USDA is only accepting a loan application for District 2 at this time. If property owners in Districts 3, 4 and 5 express interest in obtaining loan and grant information in excess of 50% of land mass within the next 30 days they can be added to the application. The township board is holding a workshop on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, to discuss items relating to the sewer project: grinder pumps, sewer rates and the criteria sheet

UPDATE: On Friday, July 12, 2019, the township board voted to apply for a USDA Loan. Before the end of July,  Mike Ridley, Supervisor will meet with the Engineer and USDA/Rural Development for a required application meeting. Once the application has been submitted USDA/Rural Development has 45 days to respond to the township..

On July 6, 2019 Tuscarora Township hosted an informational presentation on the proposed sewer expansion in Indian River. In attendance was the Township Attorney and Engineer to answer questions.  At this early stage of the planning process IT IS IMPORTANT to note that all cost figures are ESTIMATES. The following projected costs were presented at the July 6th meeting. These are an estimation if all eligible parcels are combined into one tax identification. This reduces the number of Residential Equivalent Units and raises the cost.

Expected Costs for Sewer Expansion

The following estimated costs are from Performance Engineers, Inc., and contain no combined parcels.

Preliminary Service Area Map

District 2 - Cost for Pressure System

District 2 - Cost for Gravity System

District 3 NE of Bridge

District 4 - NE of River

District 5 - Rainbows End

Cost if every district is constructed

We will continue to provide updates on the progress of the project as they occur.