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Excavation and reclamation

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07/27/2016 - Island Lake of Novi is a master planned community built on 901 acres in the heart of the city of Novi, with its own 170-acre lake, five miles of shoreline, a marina, parks, miles of carefully curated walking trails, boat docks, pools, tennis courts, and numerous other amenities, along with 876 two-story semi-custom homes. At first glance, it looks like it was designed around nature's best features.

In a way it was. Only it was planned to be that way, as part of a reclamation project following decades first as a gravel mine, belching forth gravel, aggregate and sand that was used in community roads, bridges, sewer pipes, for the foundations of buildings and homes, and other infrastructure uses.

"We mined it from the 1960s through the 1980s, and then Toll Brothers built 800-some homes in a master planned community," said Steve Weiner, vice president of real estate and environmental, Edward C. Levy Company. "You just don't find pieces of property with 800 to 1,000 acres. Maybe you see that in Texas or Florida, but you don't in Michigan. We're blessed to have that much land. It's marvelous – it's the most successful master planned community in Oakland County."

A community's natural resources are so valuable they can be worth their weight in gold. In Michigan, notably southeastern Michigan and Oakland County, we are sitting upon one of the world's largest veins of gravel, formed thousands and thousands of years ago.

The Pleistocene era, more commonly known as the Ice Age, came to a close about 11,000 years ago as glaciers, which had come down as far forward as Michigan and Indiana, melted away, and left veins of sand, gravel and clay in their wake deep underground.

As ice sheets melted and receded, they left behind deposits of peat and forest beds 15 feet thick, and rivers, lakes and streams, as well as the Great Lakes themselves. Beneath the surface, a thick cover of glacial drift protected layers of sediment, sand and gravel.

"That outwash material, the glacial till or sediment that's been carried by melt water, can be very good for sand or gravel," said Peter Rose, geologist with the Office of Minerals Management at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

A component of concrete, along with sand, water and cement, gravel is a central part of infrastructure, from roads to bridges, sewers and pipes, buildings to housing developments, and luckily for the the metro area, Oakland County and Livingston County rest upon one of the largest gravel deposits in the world. As it happens, northern Oakland County sits upon the second largest source of gravel mining in the United States.

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