Boardman Dams

Gary Langley, FAA certified sUAS pilot / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, we dive into the restoration of the Boardman River since three dams were removed.

 

The story ties into the thousands of aging dams in Michigan. Many are more than 50 years old, and some aren’t safe. Removing them is good for floodplains and native fish, but it costs money — sometimes more than is available.

Voices of the Boardman River: Tawny Hammond

Aug 29, 2018
Naina Rao

Two years ago, Tawny Hammond fulfilled a lifelong dream when she moved Up North and took over a kayak rental business on Boardman Lake. Even when she was a teenager, Hammond knew she would end up in Traverse City.

“it just felt home to me, I felt like I belonged here,” Hammond says.


Voices of the Boardman River: the Gibbs Family

Aug 22, 2018
Naina Rao

Old dams are being removed from the Boardman River. That’s because they are costly to maintain and harmful to the river’s wildlife.

But not everyone is excited about losing the dams. The Gibbs family has been here for generations and their ancestors helped build the dams.


Voices of the Boardman River: Hank Bailey

Aug 16, 2018
Naina Rao

Ottawa Indians have been in Northern Michigan for centuries. They witnessed the Ottoway River become the Boardman River when it was renamed by settlers.

When a series of dams was proposed for the river, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians was against it. So when word got out that the city might remove the dams, the tribe jumped at the opportunity to help.

But things didn’t go as smoothly as they expected.

Conservation Resource Alliance

The Boardman River Dam is gone. The river is flowing freely through an area that used to be a pond. It’s the second of three dams to be removed in a multiyear, multimillion-dollar project to return the waterway to a more natural state.

DEREK A YOUNG / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Boardman Dam removal begins this week.

 

 

On Thursday, engineers will start siphoning out water from behind the Boardman Dam in the first step to remove the 130-year-old structure. As a result residents downstream should expect cloudy water in the next few weeks, according to project manager Dan Devaun.

 

 

In the state of Michigan, chances are good that if you live near a river or stream, you also live near a dam. There are nearly 2,600 dams in Michigan. Many of them are small and privately owned. And nearly all of them are getting old.

According to 2014 report, 90% of Michigan’s dams are going to meet or exceed their design life — the length of time for which they were designed to operate — by 2020. Beyond that design life, the dams become increasingly likely to fail. That can lead to catastrophic flooding, erosion, and the spread of toxins trapped behind the dam.

So why were all of these dams constructed in the first place?

New Cass Road Bridge opens next week

Sep 14, 2016
Grand Traverse Road Commission

The new Cass Road Bridge is set to open south of Traverse City next week. It will eventually cross the Boardman River when the stream is rerouted next year. 

Grand Traverse County is demolishing the Boardman Dam and the old Cass Road Bridge and moving the river to its original location. It will be the second dam to be removed as part of a comprehensive plan to restore the river to what supporters say is a more natural state. In 2013, Brown Bridge Dam was taken out. 

Grand Traverse County wants the YMCA to run its troubled swimming pool. County commissioners voted Wednesday night to turn management of the Easling Pool over to the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA. The pool has been closed since October due to lack of funding.

The county would pay the YMCA $50,000 in management fees during a one-year trial.

Most commissioners support the plan but County Administrator Tom Menzel said it’s a bad idea.

There will be no trial over a flash flood two years ago near Traverse City that happened as a dam along the Boardman River was being removed.

 

In October 2012, the deluge swamped homes, cottages and private bridges -- forcing mandatory evacuations and road closures. 

 

Thirteen property owners sued the contractors -- and local governments. At one time, they were said to be asking $6 million. Non-disclosure agreements were signed in some cases as part if the settlement.

 

Boardman River Dams and Restoration Project

A group charged with removing hydroelectric dams along the Boardman River says it passed the halfway point in fundraising for the removal of a second dam.

Brown Bridge Dam has already been removed and leaders with the Boardman River Dams and Restoration Project say they are on track to have Boardman Dam down by the end of next year. That’s the dam that crosses Cass Street south of South Airport Road.

This week the group announced it’s raised an additional million dollars, bringing the total raised so far for Phase II to $5.7 million.

Proposal: Sell Brown Bridge Quiet Area

Mar 14, 2014

For eighty years, a hydro-electric dam sat in Brown Bridge Quiet area. It created a backwater pond on the bottomlands. In 2012, the dam was decommissioned and that drained the pond.

Larry Gerschbacher says that since the dam no longer exists and the pond is gone, it’s not used as much as it should be by Traverse City residents. The newest member of the Brown Bridge Advisory Committee suggests Traverse City sell Brown Bridge Quiet Area. He would like to see it developed into a resort lodge and conference center.

The breach of a dam south of Traverse City over the weekend gave residents along the Boardman River a scare.

Officials declared a state of emergency for several hours and issued evacuation orders. Floodwaters damaged a number of homes in low spots along the river but there were no injuries.

Containment Fails
The Boardman River is supposed to gradually return to a natural flow as three dams are removed. But Saturday morning, as contractors got ready to slowly lower the pond behind Brown Bridge Dam, their containment system gave way.