Saturday, February 02, 2008

Harbor Shores irrigation would unleash toxins


The Harbor Shores project should never have been allowed to begin and should not con tinue. I am 81, grew up in the city of Benton Harbor, and through my experience have first-hand knowledge of the development area. I have received many blocked calls telling me to keep my mouth shut. I won't because I care about this county and feel the residents are being robbed and deceived.

At age 9, I began trapping muskrats in the marshes and streams of the Paw Paw and St.
Joe rivers. The water was clear and clean and the marshes were loaded with carp, northern pike and pickerels, plus ducks, geese and songbirds. The riverbanks were teaming with perch fingerlings and emerald shiners.

On several occasions I saw trucks loaded with junk and barrels marked "danger-poison!" As they dumped the junk into the Paw Paw, bulldozers pushed the barrels to make room for more. The barrels broke open and released a heavy green liquid. There was also a small creek that ran from Auto Specialties into the Paw Paw River that was yellow green in color. As a kid I didn't have waders and gloves and was unaware of the toxins I was being exposed to. What I did know was that if I didn't get the muskrats out of that creek by noon their hides would slip off!

Through the years I witnessed transformers refrigerators – you name it – being dumped into what are now contamination hot spots. At the end of 50 years of trapping and fishing there was a noticeable reduction of the fish and wildlife that were once so plentiful.

Now the state is prepared to allow this very same land to be used for a golf course, land that is made up of fine sand where dangerous contaminants may be deeply embedded. If the golf course is constructed, the saturation of this ground with 450,000 gallons of water a day for irrigation will cause these contaminants to seep into the river and out into the lake.

I have been a Realtor for 45 years and was a highly qualified appraiser. I am aware of the preposterous, rock-bottom low appraisals for
22 acres of Jean Klock Park and the inflated appraisals of the 40-some acres of the proposed mitigated, disconnected and contaminated swamplands; swamplands that are worth very little, if anything at all. In my opinion the firm that conducted the appraisals is highly incompetent. There are no sales of swampland, therefore there are no comparables for them.

During my career in real estate I have done many planned unit developments and can tell you that you must go through a lengthy and stringent permit approval process. The process involves the county health department and road commis sion, drain commission, power company, etc., and when near water, the Army Corps of Engineers. Why is it I could not proceed with these types of developments unless I had every single duck in a row first but Harbor Shores can?

William Kechkaylo, Berrien Springs