By Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
THE FRIENDS OF THE SHIAWASSEE RIVER held an informational meeting Wednesday, March 30 to discuss the upcoming removal of the Shiatown Dam. Shown here are (from left): Joe Leonardi (Michigan DNR), Shiawassee Township Supervisor Anthony Karhoff, Friends of the Shiawassee representatives Gary Burk and Tom Cook, GEI Consultants engineer Sam Prentice, Friends of the Shiawassee representative Phil Hathaway, and GEI Consultants engineer Scott Dierks. (Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
The Friends of the Shiawassee River (FOSR), a collaborative group of Shiatown Dam stakeholders, held an informational meeting Wednesday, March 30 at the Shiawassee Township Hall in Bancroft to present the timeline for completion of the Shiatown Dam removal and restoration project that will continue this summer. The project began in 2012 with the removal of the dam’s gates and the drawdown of the impoundment.
Phase II of the project, which includes planning and design, has been underway since then, and the group is ready to remove the remaining portion of the dam. The required permits will be submitted April 8, bids will be solicited May 16, and full dam removal is slated to begin July 11, provided the permits are approved by then. The group plans to complete the dam removal by Sept. 9 of this year, with additional Shiatown Park improvements to follow in 2017.
The purpose of the meeting, in addition to informing the public of the timeline, was to gather opinions of those most affected by the project. Several area residents spoke during the meeting, with Brian and Marsha Louch providing the most community feedback. The couple lives next to the dam, on Bennington Road, and they are concerned that FOSR and its engineers have underestimated the power of the water coming through the river at that point.
“When you took out the spillways in 2012, everything went to hell,” Brian said during the meeting. “You guys come out and do your surveying in the summer, when a person could wade across the river and it is ankle deep. I don’t think you realize how much force this water has; it’s unimaginable.”
Scott Dierks of GEI Consultants assured the Louches that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources takes safety into account when issuing permits for dam removal, and that the FOSR has crunched the numbers to ensure that the removal of the dam would be positive for all involved.
Sam Prentice, of GEI Consultants, elaborated further by showing that the 100-year floodplain would actually decrease from its current level of 28 acres, to 26 acres. He also explained that the structure of the riverbanks would allow flood waters to flow over the west bank, into the large, flat floodplain, leaving homes on the east side of the river relatively unchanged when it comes to the threat of flooding.
Prentice went on to explain that there will be three gradient controls in place of the dam, which include a j-hook made of rocks that will direct water, and a man-made riffle and log rootwad that will slow water down. He also informed attendees that most of the concrete from the dam will be used to fill in the deep scour hole that formed at the bottom of the dam. He also mentioned that the removal of the Corunna and Shiatown dams will open up 335 miles of habitat for native wildlife, and that the project should improve fishing and paddling. The group plans to maintain a 115-foot river width.