REMOVAL OF the Shiatown Dam, near the intersection of Bennington and Bancroft roads west of Vernon, was recently completed by MJ VanDamme Trucking, ahead of the contractor’s targeted completion date of Labor Day. That section of the Shiawassee River is again open to paddlers, who can also take advantage of the park’s canoe/kayak put-in.
The Shiatown Dam was owned by the State of Michigan Land Bank, which sought to eliminate liability by removing the dangerous, obsolete dam, and in 2010, the Dam Safety Division of the State of Michigan ordered steps taken to reduce the danger of dam failure.
The Friends of the Shiawassee River (FOSR) oversaw the partial removal of the dam in the fall of 2012, which began with the drawdown of the impoundment. Over the years, the FOSR has worked with several state and local stakeholders to gain sufficient funding, meet regulatory requirements and achieve safety, environmental and recreational goals. The FOSR obtained grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, and Shiawassee County officials lent technical advice and provided on-the-ground input on project design.
Although the removal of the dam was a long, slow process, that was mostly by design. A phased removal plan was utilized in an effort to retain the sediments gathered on the up-stream side of the dam, which are integral to maintaining the river’s shape and integrity. The gradual removal of the structure should have the effect of lowering the floodplain, therefore reducing the risk of flooding.
Significant excavation work has been undertaken to restore and stabilize the channel, thus expanding the aquatic habitat of the river’s wildlife and vegetation, and a riffle was created in the dam’s place using natural stones, which mimics the soothing sound of moving water once produced by water flowing over the dam. Approximately 16,000 cubic yards of dirt was removed from the area surrounding the dam, and grass has been planted along the newly formed banks of the river.
Now, with the dam removed, and the deadly 12-foot-deep scour hole filled in, the section of the Shiawassee that snakes through Shiatown Park has been transformed into a safe destination for everyone to enjoy.
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)