By Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The city of Corunna received word Monday, March 14 that the DNR has awarded the city a $301,500 grant to help finance the removal of its dam, which is located downtown along Shiawassee Street. The removal of the dam will improve the aquatic habitat of the river by making the river less restrictive for wildlife. Dam removal is an initiative the DNR and other state and local environmental agencies are focusing on as hydraulic energy is used less.
The city was ordered to remove or repair the dam in 2009 by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE), and city residents soundly defeated a ballot question in November 2010 that would have financed dam repairs.
Corunna City Council members have said numerous times that the council would like to keep the dam in place, but the money is just not available.
“Nobody wants to see the dam removed,” City Manager Joe Sawyer said Wednesday. “We have
explored every option, including asking for help from the community and exploring possible grants, but the resources are not there for us. The DNR has awarded us this money because they want to see more dams removed to create more natural aquatic habitats. They aren’t giving grants to repair dams or else we would have applied for those.”
The DNR grant is the second grant the city has received pertaining to its dam removal project. The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) awarded the city a $25,000 grant earlier this year, and the city is in the process of applying for a $32,500 U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant and another $30,000 WIN grant. If both additional grants are awarded, the city’s out-of-pocket cost for the project would be only $75,000, compared to over $1,000,000 for a dam replacement.
The city plans to improve Heritage Park by potentially adding a fishing platform and boardwalk, and the city manager is also hoping to install the county’s first handicap-accessible canoe/kayak launch on Brady Street. The launch would cost approximately $30,000, but Sawyer is enthusiastic about the possibilities.
“This would be the first launch of its kind in Shiawassee County,” Sawyer said. “And it would benefit many more people than only those in wheelchairs. Older people or those who are unable to get into a canoe without tipping it over would find the launch very useful. I would like to see these access points all over our county to allow more people to use the river, and to spearhead more riverside business possibilities.”
The city does not have a solidified timeline for the dam removal, but Mayor Charles Kerridge said Wednesday that he expects the city to begin the project in the summer of 2017, with the dam being completely removed by the end of that year. City assessor and city planner Merilee Lawson said the city will know more after the DNR outlines when the project needs to begin and finish.
The city council will hold a public hearing to discuss the project during its Monday, March 21 meeting, with the floor being open to residents at 7:15 p.m.