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NRDA trustees remove Alcott Dam

A restored portion of Portage Creek in Kalamazoo, Michigan

A restored portion of Portage Creek in Kalamazoo, Michigan

From Michigan Department of Environmental Quality News Release

Natural resource trustees for the Kalamazoo River 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, is restoring natural resources by improving habitat along a section of Portage Creek upstream of Alcott Street. The removal allows fish to swim freely through the former dam area and upstream an additional 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 Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Office of Attorney General. The Department of Environmental Quality 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 Lyondell Basell Industries, for release of polychlorinated biphenyl 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.

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. The project created rock riffles to provide habitat and guide the decrease in creek elevation, eliminating the sudden drop at the dam. The project also included removal of about 50,000 cubic yards of material and increased floodplain capacity by planting native vegetation along the creek banks and in the floodplain.

The trustees’ work will provide a variety of benefits, including allowing fish to move back and forth through this section of Portage Creek. Trustees expect to see an increase in the number of fish species in this section of Portage Creek and upstream to the next dam, as well as more abundance and diversity of benthic invertebrates. Other benefits include additional flood storage capacity and less 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.

Last updated: June 8, 2020