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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Collaboration Key to Success of Dead River Restoration in Michigan

Region 3, August 15, 2012
Mitch Koetje, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, addresses celebration participants on the bank of the Dead River in the City of Marquette.
Mitch Koetje, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, addresses celebration participants on the bank of the Dead River in the City of Marquette. - Photo Credit: n/a

Recently the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality held a celebration recognizing and marking the completion of a decade-long effort to restore the Dead River in Marquette County, Michigan. The celebration, attended by MDEQ director Dan Wyant, State Senator Tom Casperson, Marquette Mayor John Kivela, representatives from Governor Rick Synder’s office, and many others, highlighted the importance of collaboration and partnerships in turning an unfortunate event into a restoration success. In 2003, a dike breach at Silver Lake, a 1,500- acre storage reservoir owned by Upper Peninsula Power Company, sent 9 billion gallons of water rushing downstream toward the City of Marquette. The resulting flood caused an estimated $100 million in damages when streamside homes, camps, bridges, dams and public access sites where damaged or destroyed, and power, gas, and telephone services were interrupted. The environmental damage was also significant. The flood event mobilized approximately 1 million cubic yards of sediment and debris. Four miles of river channel below Silver Lake was devastated as the torrent of water scoured a new channel and deposited sediment into adjacent wetlands. The flood also caused the breach of the Tourist Park Dam in the City of Marquette and impacted an additional 1 mile of downstream channel. Shortly after the flood event, an agency team composed of staff from the MDEQ, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked cooperatively with UPPCO on an assessment and restoration strategy. Ultimately the team decided on using a restoration process called natural channel design. This process uses information from a river that is similar in size, flow, and geography that is healthy and intact as a reference. The reference conditions are then used to engineer and re-create these natural, stable river characteristics on the impacted river. The goal is to restore the function of the river system which ultimately re-establishes habitat for aquatic invertebrates, fish, mussels, amphibians, birds and mammals. Collins and Baker Engineering, a husband and wife team out of South Carolina, led the design and on-the-ground restoration work. Sean Collins highlighted the significance of this effort, “To my knowledge this is the largest scale natural channel design restoration project in the country.” After nearly 10 years of assessment, engineering, implementation and monitoring, the project is complete and has been deemed a huge success. According to George Madison, fishery biologist with MDNR, the restored river below Silver Lake is now one the local angling “hotspots” in Marquette County.

Contact Info: Christie Deloria, (906) 226-1240, christie_deloria@fws.gov