THE SHIATOWN DAM, located on Bennington Road between Bancroft and Newberry roads, can be seen in 2016, after the completion of the first phase of the Friends of the Shiawassee River’s dam removal project. Phase I included the removal of the dam’s gates and a drawdown of the impoundment, leaving the dam’s piers, retaining walls and powerhouse still to be removed.
The dam removal project began in 2012, after a 12-year-old girl drowned in the dam’s reservoir in May of that year. The FOSR hopes to create a safe atmosphere that can be enjoyed by the community, and to create a viable aquatic habitat for the river’s wildlife and vegetation. Project organizers have shared that, despite the significant changes being made to the river, they intend to maintain a river width of 115 feet, which should not negatively impact residents along the river or substantially lower the river’s water level.
(Independent File Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners received an update on Wednesday, May 15 from Gary Burk, a member of the Friends of the Shiawassee River (FOSR) Board of Directors, regarding the Shiatown Dam removal project. The project began in 2012 with the removal of the dam’s gates and the drawdown of the impoundment, but delays in the permitting process at the state level have hindered progress. Burk reported to the commissioners that the FOSR has received the necessary permits and has put the project out to bid.
“There were some delays in the MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) permitting process and it has been a challenge getting to where we are today, but it looks like this is going to move forward,” shared Burk on May 15. “All we are looking for today is to make sure that the board is still in support of the project and will allow access through the park for construction activities, with the idea that everything is going to be restored following removal of the dam.”
Phase II of the project calls for the elimination of the dam’s piers, retaining walls and powerhouse, and the filling-in of the approximately 12-foot-deep scour hole just downstream of the dam with the concrete rubble created by demolition of the structure. Phase III will include channel restoration, stabilization and habitat improvements. The FOSR hopes to complete the removal of the dam by the end of October.
The FOSR is coordinating the project on behalf of the Michigan Land Bank, which actually owns the dam. The FOSR has received a $162,700 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a $62,500 grant from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network and a $30,000 Fish and Wildlife Grant to assist in funding the removal of the structure.
The Board of Commissioner authorized access to the park in 2016 to allow the FOSR to remove the dam, so the commissioners agreed on May 15 to simply renew the original agreement with FOSR, making a motion unnecessary.
Burk used words like “nuisance” and “hazardous” in describing the Shiatown Dam on May 15, and he has shared previously that the removal of the dam will lessen the risk of flooding downstream by eliminating the threat of dam failure. The project is part of a larger FOSR plan, which includes the removal of the Corunna Dam, to open up 335 miles of habitat for native wildlife, and to allow for more recreational activities like fishing and paddling.
The Independent will continue to follow this story, and more information about the Friends of the Shiawassee River can be found online, at www.shiawasseeriver.org.