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Natural Resource Damage Assessment
Looking Ahead to Changes at the Allegan City Dam
The Trustees funded a feasibility and conceptual design report for the Allegan City Dam to compare the alternatives of complete dam removal, partial dam removal, and dam rehabilitation or modification. This report includes renderings which illustrate what the City of Allegan's waterfront would look like under each of the alternatives. It also includes descriptions of the risks, benefits, and estimated costs of each alternative. The Trustees presented the feasibility assessment and conceptual design illustrations to the Allegan City Council on June 24, 2019.
The current dam needs expensive repairs, is a liability for the city, and prevents fish passage, but does provide a waterfront area for the city. A fish ladder could potentially be added.
Partial dam removal would still result in ongoing liability and maintenance requirements for the city, but would reduce flooding risks, increase passage of some fish species, and could result in additional recreational opportunities along a re-configured waterfront.
Full dam removal would eliminate maintenance requirements and liability for legacy contaminated sediments, reduce flooding risks the most, provide the greatest level of fish passage, and provide the greatest increase in park area and recreational use opportunities.
When coordinated with the Superfund process, the full dam removal is estimated to have the lowest combination of constructions and long-term maintenance cost to the city. In addition, the alternatives with ecological benefits would be eligible for at least partial funding by natural resource damage assessment funds and/or other grants.
Allegan Dam Feeasibility and Conceptual Design Report (45 page PDF , May 2019)
Presentation to Allegan City Council (18 page PDF , June 2019)
Removal of Alcott Street Dam and Restoration of Portage Creek Corridor
The Trustees have completed the removal of the Alcott Dam on Portage Creek in the City of Kalamazoo in 2018. The project, led by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), is restoring natural resources by improving habitat in and along a section of Portage Creek upstream of Alcott Street and allowing fish to swim freely through the former dam area and upstream an additional approximately 1.5 miles of the creek.
The Alcott Dam removal project was funded with $2,000,000 from the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Trustees. The Trustee agencies are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the MDEQ, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Office of Attorney General. The MDEQ also provided approximately $3,100,000 in additional funding for the project to conduct a feasibility study and to characterize, excavate and properly dispose of contaminated soils and sediments.
The Natural Resource Trustees’ portion of funding for the project came from a bankruptcy settlement with LyondellBasell Industries, a liable party for the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination of Portage Creek and the Kalamazoo River. The removal of the dam was a high priority project in the Trustees’ restoration plan for Portage Creek (Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment, Portage Creek and Operable Unit 1 ).
In addition to removing the dam to improve fish passage and riparian habitat, the project restored 3,000 feet of the creek and its floodplain upstream of the former dam using natural channel features like creating rock riffles, logtoes, brush bundles, providing low-lying wetland areas that increase floodplain capacity, and planting native vegetation. Specifically, this project included the following:
- Creation of rock riffles in six areas to provide habitat and guide the decreasing elevation of the creek over the 3,000 feet in place of the current sudden drop in elevation at the dam
- Creation of concrete wing walls in the former dam location to protect the Alcott Street bridge over Portage Creek
- Removal of about 50,000 cubic yards of material to increase the floodplain capacity in the area
- Removal of the dam and associated infrastructure to be able to naturalize the creek bed with a rocky riffle in that location
- Planting of native vegetation along the banks of the creek and in the floodplain, including wetland areas
This project is expected to provide the following benefits:
- Allow fish to move back and forth through this section of Portage Creek
- Increase the number of fish species in this section of Portage Creek and upstream to the next dam
- Increase the abundance and diversity of benthic invertebrates in this section of Portage Creek
- Provide additional flood storage capacity and reduce amount of flooding downstream
The Trustees plan to monitor this restoration, especially fish use, and also coordinate with EPA and the City of Kalamazoo as remedial work in the area goes forward and decisions are made about public access to the restored section of Portage Creek. The restored section runs through Operable Unit 1, which is still fenced and closed, so currently the public can only view the portion of this project that is visible from the bridge and parking lot on Alcott Street.
Alcott Street Dam Removal in Pictures
Removal of Plainwell Dam
The Kalamazoo River was returned to its historical channel at the Plainwell Dam site in 2009. The Service and our co-trustees negotiated with the paper companies and U.S. EPA to combine dam removal and river restoration with the PCB removal action that was completed in the former Plainwell Impoundment of the river. This photo shows the removal of the first stop log from the temporary water control structure allowed for a controlled drawdown of the river level from the former impoundment into the historical channel. The lowered water level made the rest of the PCB removal process easier while gradually restoring a more natural flow in the river. Cleaned banks were revegetated with native grasses, shrubs and trees.
Plainwell Dam Removal on the Kalamazoo River: Removing More Than Physical Barriers to Restoration presentation made at Areas of Concern Conference, October, 2011 (17-page ; October 12, 2011)