A dam removal project on the Boardman River, a tributary of Lake Michigan that flows into West Grand Traverse Bay, will re-connect more than 3.4 miles of stream to the Great Lakes and restore the river to a more natural state.
The project, which has been in the works for several years, recently secured nearly $500,000 in federal grant money. This funding comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Tribal Wildlife Grant.
It is the largest dam removal project in Michigan’s history, as it will cost between $5 million and $8 million. Additionally, it will be one of the most significant wetland restoration projects to take place in the Great Lakes Basin, involving more than 250 acres of wetlands.
The river’s watershed spans 295 square miles and drains roughly 182,800 acres of land along 130 miles of river, and it contributes roughly one-third of the water volume to the bay. The river also supports Great Lakes migratory fish species, including salmon, steelhead and brown trout before entering West Grand Traverse Bay. In fact, it is deemed one of the top-ten trout streams in Michigan.
Discussions regarding the possible removal of three hydroelectric dams on the river began in 2005. Some residents have argued in favor of preserving the dams because of their potential for hydroelectric power, as well as the waterfront property and waterfowl habitat the impoundments provide. However, it was concluded that the dams would require extensive maintenance to continue operation, and it was eventually decided that the Sabin, Boardman, and Brown Bridge dams would be removed and the Union Street dam would be modified.
Officials say the dam removal project will help to improve cold water fish habitat, water supply, water quality, soil erosion control, and riparian habitat. The dams have made it difficult or impossible for fish to successfully migrate through the river, interfering with natural food chains. The dams also interfere with water temperature, which many fish species rely on for signals related to reproduction and growth. The reduced flow generated on the river has led to warmer water, which holds less dissolved oxygen and can be problematic or lethal to underwater life.
Do you think the Boardman River dam removal project is on the right track? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Half Million In Funding For Boardman River Dam Project [ABC 29&8]
Fate of Boardman dams still up in the air [The Traverse City Record Eagle]
Group wants to save Boardman River dams [The Traverse City Record Eagle]
Traverse City, MI Boardman River Dams Project
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