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Issues Of The Environment: Dam On Huron River In Ypsilanti May Be Removed

Jun 28, 2017

The Peninsular Paper Dam in Ypsilanti once provided hydro-electric power to the area.  Those days are long gone, and some believe it’s time remove the structure from the Huron River. This week, we explore the potential benefits of dam removal with the executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council, Laura Rubin.


Project:

The Huron River Watershed council (HRWC) proposes to study the feasibility of restoring river flows and improving water quality and habitat diversity in Ypsilanti through the strategic removal of Peninsular Dam and subsequent site revitalization.  

In tandem with the dam removal, HRWC will facilitate the revitalization of the neglected city park and hazardous vacant powerhouse into a vibrant local restaurant and event space on the river with improved recreational amenities such as paddling, fishing, and walking.

The City of Ypsilanti, as dam owner, is responsible for its maintenance.  The City is required to inspect the dam every three years and make recommended repairs.  A 2014 dam inspection report included an inspection of the dam below the waterline and projected maintenance costs of over $650,000.  These costs do not include any park or powerhouse repairs. 

The DEQ inspection report of 2016 made reference to the 2014 report and requested a timeline for completing the repairs within 10 years.  Recall that no specific grant funds are available for repairing the dam—a dam with repair costs now estimated at over $1 million.  Therefore, the City is exploring dam removal. 

In order to evaluate dam removal and be eligible for the grants available to remove the dam, information needs to be gathered such as characterization of sediment in the impoundment, proposed dam removal process and costs, land ownership pre- and post-removal, and the river channel post-dam removal.  HRWC and the MDEQ prefer the dam removal option along with river and economic revitalization of the area.

(Resource: Huron River Watershed Council)

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu