By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
The Corunna City Council voted Monday, Jan. 25 to accept a $25,000 Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) grant to finance planning and conceptual designs for the city’s upcoming demolition of the Shiawassee Street dam. The city, which was ordered by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in 2012 to repair or replace the dam, plans to begin demolition in 2017, with enhancements planned for the river and adjoining Heritage Park.
After accepting the grant, the council then moved to use the grant money to pay GEI Consultants to create three rough conceptual designs. GEI Project Professional/Engineer Sam Prentice presented the council with a very preliminary design during the meeting in an effort to spur discussion, which had the desired effect. Council members deliberated at length over the many renovation options and outlined their ideas for Prentice, who hopes to have more complete, though still “rough,” conceptual drawings for the council to review in February.
City assessor and city planner Merilee Lawson, who applied for the Saginaw Bay WIN grant, detailed two additional grants the city is hoping to receive to fund the project. The first, a DNR Aquatic Habitat grant that would net the city $300,000 to $400,000 to be used for “dam removal and aquatic habitat improvements,” will be awarded in April.
The city will then apply for a DNR Trust Fund grant in April to finance any portions of the project that remain unfunded. Lawson said it is possible to re-apply to Saginaw Bay WIN for additional grant money if either of the DNR grants are not awarded to the city.
Lawson reported that the dam removal will only cost approximately $30,000, and that the rest of the money would be used to enhance the river and park. Several options were discussed between the council and Prentice, including a boardwalk and fishing decks. Council members are also worried the city will miss the sound of the dam, but Prentice was ready for that concern. His preliminary plans call for pieces of the dam structure to be spread out in the area vacated by the dam to make a shallow “riffle” that would create a similar sound and aesthetically-pleasing view of the river. There was concern that a shallower river would make the river impassable for people traveling on the river, but Prentice assured the council that decreasing the depth of the river at the dam site would not interfere with canoe and kayak use.
It was noted by Prentice that the demolition of the dam will narrow the upstream portion of the river, which would mean increased acreage for properties situated on that portion of the river. The Shiawassee Street side of the river would also need to be reinforced to withstand the force of the water coming around the bend of the river. Prentice’s plan calls for two “j-channels” that would create small pools near Shiawassee Street to lessen the force of the water against the banks of the river, while also providing ideal fishing areas.
Another positive of the dam removal will be a decreased flood plain, which would be reduced by approximately 60 percent across the city. Lawson pointed out that the city would need to purchase an updated flood map in the future, which is not currently part of the project plans.