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Natural Resource Damage Assessment
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 ).
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
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.
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.
The links below go to the Trustees' reports concerning the Kalamazoo River Environment Natural Resource Damage Assessment.
(297-page PDF ; 12MB)
• 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 )
• 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
• Notice of Intent To Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Riverwide Restoration Plan Federal Register Notice, February 18, 2014 (3-page PDF ; 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 ; February 2015)
Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment, Portage Creek and Operable Unit 1 (111-page PDF ; 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 ; April 2012)
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)
Stage 1 Assessment Report for Kalamazoo River Environment: Recreational Fishing Study Update, July 16, 2009 (192K PDF ; July 16, 2009)
Peer Review of MSU's PCB Exposure and Effects Studies in the Floodplain of the Kalamazoo River (719k PDF ; December 1, 2008)
Stage 1 Assessment Report
• Presentation on Stage 1 Assessment Report from public meeting (1,100k PDF; March 15, 2005)
Draft Stage 1 Assessment Plan for Kalamazoo River Environment Site (642k PDF ; November 2000) We accepted public comments on this draft plan through January 16, 2001.
Preassessment Screen and Determination (600k PDF ; May 30, 2000)
Freshwater Mussel (Unionidae) Relocations in the Kalamazoo River for the Allied Paper, Inc. / Portage Creek / Kalamazoo River Superfund Site Projects in Allegan County, Michigan ( March 8, 2018) by Environmental Solutions & Innovations, Inc.
Evaluation of Mussel Survival from the Former Plainwell Impoundment Translocation (PDF ; October 8, 2010)
Translocation of Freshwater Mussels from the Former Plainwell Impoundment (PDF ; March 19, 2010)
Freshwater Mussels of the Kalamazoo River, Michigan, from Battle Creek to Saugatuck (328k PDF ; Oct. 1, 2001) by Renee Sherman Mulcrone and Charles Mehne, DVM
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:
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
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