Tribal elder shares unique perspective of dam project

There are many ways to describe the benefits of dam removal: Yanking obsolete dams provides fish passage, restores natural flow conditions and creates new fish and wildlife habitat.

And then there are the kinds of benefits described by Hank Bailey Odawa, a fish and wildlife technician and tribal elder with the  Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians.

Speaking Tuesday at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Cleveland, Bailey Odawa said dams are to rivers what cancerous tumors are to humans: Obstructions that disrupt the flow of life-sustaining energy and eventually kill the host.

“We have cut off parts of live giving arteries that Mother Earth took eons to build into healthy ecosystems,” Bailey Odawa said.

The Brown Bridge Dam is one of three dams slated for removal from the Boardman River.

Removing a dam restores a river’s natural flow, it’s energy, Bailey Odawa said.

Bailey Odawa’s tribe is working on Michigan’s largest dam removal project, the removal of three dams from the Boardman River, a blue ribbon trout stream that flows into Lake Michigan in Traverse City. The project will restore fish passage and the natural flow in one of Michigan’s best rivers.

He believes the Boardman River will breath a sigh of relief and gratitude when the dams are removed.

“I think if Mother Earth could speak to us (about the Boardman River dam removal project), she would say,  ‘Megwich,'” Bailey Odawa said.

That’s Native American for “thank you.”

Go here to learn more about the Boardman River dam removal project.


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