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Kalamazoo River

Natural Resource Damage Assessment

 

Rock riffles and native vegetation incorporated into restoraion of Portage Creek upstream of the

Rock riffles and native vegetation incorporated into Portage Creek restoration upstream of the

Alcott Street dam removal.

Photo by Lisa Williams; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Removal of Alcott Street Dam Complete

The Trustees have completed the removal of the Alcott Dam on Portage Creek in the City of Kalamazoo. 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 Adobe PDF icon).

 

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

 

Image 1. Aerial photo of the Alcott Dam Removal Project (Google Earth image, April 2017) and

figure showing the plans for creek and floodplain restoration (AECOM figure from permit application, March 2017).

 

Aerial photo of the Alcott Dam Removal Project (Google Earth image, April 2017) and


 

Image 2. Alcott Dam as viewed from the Alcott Street bridge, looking upstream on Portage Creek,

before the restoration project.

Photo by Lisa Williams; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Alcott Dam as viewed from the Alcott Street bridge, looking upstream on Portage Creek before the restoration project.

 


 

Image 3. Downstream portion of the restored section of Portage Creek, looking upstream from the Alcott Street bridge

(about the same location the previous photo was taken) after the restoration project.

Photo by Lisa Williams; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 


 

Image 4. Downstream end of the restored portion of Portage Creek, looking downstream across

where the dam used to be, to the Alcott Street bridge that was reinforced as part of the dam removal.

Photo by Lisa Williams; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 


 

 

Background

Industrial activities on the Kalamazoo River and Portage Creek released polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to those waterways and the surrounding environment. As a result, the U.S. EPA designated areas downstream of the releases of PCBs as the Allied Paper, Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund Site.

 

Fish consumption warning sign along the Kalamazoo River during cleanup work in 2018.Fish consumption warning sign along the Kalamazoo River during cleanup work in 2018.  A section of the river near Otsego was closed to recreation at that time for safety during the cleanup work and dam removal. 

Photo courtesy of Paul Ruesch, U.S. EPA.

 

 

The U.S. EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality are working to clean up the contaminants in the river system and/or or halt the risk from them in some way. For the current status of the cleanup process, visit EPA's Kalamazoo Project website or MDEQ's website on the Allied Paper, Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund Site.

 

Meanwhile, the Trustees for natural resources are conducting a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). In the NRDA, the Trustees will determine the amount of restoration needed both to return the Kalamazoo River Environment to what it would have been like if the contaminants had not been released and to compensate the public for the loss of use and enjoyment of their natural resources resulting from the contaminants. In order to determine the amount of restoration and compensation required, the Trustees first evaluate the amounts and types of injuries to natural resources that result from the contaminants in the environment. Injuries include things like poor reproduction in bald eagles and mink and fish consumption advisories for anglers in the area.

 

The Trustee agencies for this NRDA are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (added by Governor Granholm on September 29, 2004), the Michigan Department of the Attorney General, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

We are making progress toward restoration of the Kalamazoo River!  The River has begun returning to its historical channel at the Plainwell Dam site! 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 is underway in the former Plainwell Impoundment of the river.  This photo shows the removal of the first stop log from the temporary water control structure that will allow a controlled drawdown into the remediated historical channel.  The lowered water level will also make the rest of the PCB removal process easier.  Cleaned banks are being revegetated with native grasses, shrubs and trees by JFNew and we expect fairly rapid colonization of the benthic communities from upstream gravel beds and riffle areas.

 

Reports

The links below go to the Trustees' reports concerning the Kalamazoo River Environment Natural Resource Damage Assessment.

Kayakers on a natural stretch of the Kalamazoo River.

Kayakers enjoy a natural stretch of the Kalamazoo River.

Photo by USFWS; Annette Trowbridge

 

Final Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Restoration Resulting from the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Assessment

(297-page PDF Adobe PDF icon; 12MB)

 

Record of Decision Adobe PDF icon

 

Federal Register Notice of Availability of a Record of Decision for the Kalamazoo River Natural Resources Damage Assessment: Final Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Adobe PDF icon

 

Federal Register Notice of Availability: Final Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Restoration Resulting From the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Assessment (3-page PDF Adobe PDF icon)

 

Draft Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Restoration Resulting from the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Assessment (2.3MB PDF Adobe PDF icon; Sept. 2015)

 

Federal Register Notice of Availabililty and Request for Comments: Draft Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Restoration Resulting From the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Assessment

 

Slideshow presented at Sept. 15, 2015, public meeting

 

Notice of Intent To Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Riverwide Restoration Plan Federal Register Notice, February 18, 2014 (3-page PDF Adobe PDF icon; February 2014) 

 

- The Trustees received one comment on this Notice of Intent: NOI comment letter from U.S. EPA, March 17, 2014

 

Kalamazoo River Remedial and Restoration Objectives, Letter to James Saric, U.S. EPA, dated February 27, 2015 (4-page PDF Adobe PDF icon; February 2015)

 

Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment, Portage Creek and Operable Unit 1 (111-page PDF Adobe PDF icon; August 2013)

 

Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment, Portage Creek and Operable Unit 1

Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment, Portage Creek and Operable Unit 1  (91-page PDF Adobe PDF icon; April 2012) 

 

Presentation on Draft Restoration Plan for Portage Creek and Operable Unit 1 from public meeting held May 1, 2012 (25-page PDF Adobe PDF icon; 817KB)

 

Fact Sheet on Draft Restoration Plan for Portage Creek and Operable Unit 1 (2-page PDFAdobe PDF icon)

 

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 Adobe PDF icon; October 12, 2011)

 

Stage 1 Assessment Report for Kalamazoo River Environment: Recreational Fishing Study Update, July 16, 2009 (192K PDF Adobe PDF icon; July 16, 2009)

 

Peer Review of MSU's PCB Exposure and Effects Studies in the Floodplain of the Kalamazoo River (719k PDF Adobe PDF icon; December 1, 2008)

 

Stage 1 Assessment Report

Stage 1 Assessment Report for the Kalamazoo River Environment (March 2005)

 

Presentation on Stage 1 Assessment Report from public meeting (1,100k PDFAdobe PDF icon; March 15, 2005)

 

Fact Sheet for Stage 1 Assessment Report for the Kalamazoo River Environment (391k PDF Adobe PDF icon)

 

Draft Stage 1 Assessment Plan for Kalamazoo River Environment Site (642k PDF Adobe PDF icon; November 2000) We accepted public comments on this draft plan through January 16, 2001.

 

Preassessment Screen and Determination (600k PDF Adobe PDF icon; May 30, 2000)

 

Mussel Reports

Freshwater Mussel (Unionidae) Relocations in the Kalamazoo River for the Allied Paper, Inc. / Portage Creek / Kalamazoo River Superfund Site Projects in Allegan County, Michigan (Adobe PDF icon March 8, 2018) by Environmental Solutions & Innovations, Inc.

 

Evaluation of Mussel Survival from the Former Plainwell Impoundment Translocation (PDF Adobe PDF icon; October 8, 2010)

 

Translocation of Freshwater Mussels from the Former Plainwell Impoundment (PDF Adobe PDF icon; March 19, 2010)

 

Translocation of Freshwater Mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae) from the Plainwell Diversion Dam Area  (PDF Adobe PDF icon;  March 19, 2010)

 

Freshwater Mussels of the Kalamazoo River, Michigan, from Battle Creek to Saugatuck (328k PDF Adobe PDF icon; Oct. 1, 2001) by Renee Sherman Mulcrone and Charles Mehne, DVM

 

Sharon Hanshue, MDNR Biologist, removes the first stop log in the water control structure as part of restoring the Kalamazoo River to its historic channel during the Plainwell Impoundment PCB cleanup and dam removal."   Photo courtesy of the MDNR.

 

Sharon Hanshue, Michigan DNR Biologist, removes the first stop log in the water control structure as part of restoring the Kalamazoo River to its historic channel during the Plainwell Impoundment PCB cleanup and dam removal.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan DNR

 

Contacts

If you have any questions concerning information found in any of these reports or any other comments related to the Kalamazoo River Environment NRDA, contact us via email or telephone:

 

Lisa Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, East Lansing Field Office, 517-351-8324

 

Judith Alfano, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, 517-373-7402

 

John Riley, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 517-284-5045

 

Julie Sims, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,734-741-2385

 

Georgia Parham, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3 External Affairs, 812-334-4261 ext. 203

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Links

Region 3 NRDA Homepage

Region 3 Contaminants Program Homepage

 

Other Links

For more information on the Superfund cleanup process at this site, visit EPA's website on the Kalamazoo Project or MDEQ's webpage on the Allied Paper, Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund Site

 

For more information on NRDA, in general, visit Department of Interior's NRDA Homepage

 

Kalamazoo River as a Great Lakes Area of Concern, U.S. EPA's website on the AOC and RAP process

 

 

Midwest NRDA Home

Midwest Environmental Contaminants Home