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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Michigan Stream Team Tours Boardman River Dam Removal Projects

Region 3, June 5, 2013
Passive channel restoration above the old Brown Bridge Pond. No work has been done on this reach of the stream and the channel was allowed to find its own path.
Passive channel restoration above the old Brown Bridge Pond. No work has been done on this reach of the stream and the channel was allowed to find its own path. - Photo Credit: n/a
Active channel restoration. This portion of the stream was restored to its historic channel (note the tree stumps along the bank) prior to the dams existence in the watershed. Stream banks were sloped, native vegetation planted, and banks stabilized with large woody debris.
Active channel restoration. This portion of the stream was restored to its historic channel (note the tree stumps along the bank) prior to the dams existence in the watershed. Stream banks were sloped, native vegetation planted, and banks stabilized with large woody debris. - Photo Credit: n/a

The Michigan Stream Team (MiST) held its spring meeting in Traverse City (Michigan) this May. The meeting highlighted dam removal and stream restoration work that is occurring on the Boardman River, which flows through downtown Traverse City. Several members of the MiST are directly involved with the removals of the Brown Bridge, Boardman and Sabin dams (Grand Traverse County).

 

There were presentations given on the Brown Bridge Dam, which was removed in the fall of 2012, and on Boardman and Sabin dams, which are currently in the design and engineering phase. The presentation covering the Brown Bridge Dam removal process included an overview of the events surrounding the October 6, 2012 incident where there was an accidental release of water and sediment downstream.

The Boardman River Dam Removal project has been stated to be one of the biggest dam removals in Michigan’s history and one of the largest wetland restorations in the Great Lakes. The removal of Brown Bridge Dam restored 1.5 miles of cold water trout stream, 13 acres of wetlands, 25 acres of upland habitat, and provided fish access to 145 miles of stream above the dam for the first time in nearly 100 years. All three dam removals will restore more than 3 miles of quality trout water and 250 acres of wetlands, and reconnect 160 miles of stream habitat.

The morning after the meeting, the group paddled from Grasshopper Ranch through the former delta and impoundment to observe the mixture of passive and active stream restoration techniques used in the Brown Bridge Dam removal project. Then the group continued padding downstream of the former Brown Bridge Dam to observe the impacts of the October 6 incident and to discuss hydrologic and sediment issues. This meeting provided a great opportunity to discuss lessons learned, uncertainty, the rivers respose to the dam removal, and the removal of Boardman and Sabin dams.

Hank Bailey, a tribal member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians and works for their Natural Resources Department, spoke with the group after the river tour. He shared the Native American perspective of the dam removal and how this change will improve the health of Mother Earth. “The dam is like a blocked artery that we are removing, so that Mother Earth can heal.”

The MiST is comprised of county, state, federal, tribal, and university personnel that are involved in various aspects of stream and aquatic habitat restoration, including dam removal projects. More information can be found at: http://www.mi.gov/streamteam

By Andrea Ania (Fish Biologists), Rick Westerhof (Fish Biologist)

Contact Info: Andrea Ania, 989-356-5102 x1020, Andrea_Ania@fws.gov