Major dam removal project will benefit the Great Lakes

One of the most significant dam removal projects in the Great Lakes basin could begin later this year in Michigan.

Three dams will be removed on the Boardman River, a scenic trout stream that flows into Lake Michigan in the northern Michigan community of Traverse City. The first dam could be removed later this year.

The Boardman River undertaking is the largest dam removal project in Michigan history and the largest wetlands restoration project in the Great Lakes basin, according to the Michigan River News. According to that group, the project will: Restore more than three miles of high quality trout stream; reconnect 160 miles of stream habitat to Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay; restore 250 acres of wetlands and generate more than $3 million in tourism, recreation and increased property values. Go here to read the entire Michigan River news article.

The Brown Bridge Dam is one of three dams slated for removal on the Boardman River. (Michigan River News photo)

The federal government’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has contributed $1 million to the $8 million project. Though costly, it is a solid investment in the Great Lakes.

There are more than 2,500 dams in Michigan and thousands more in the seven other states that border the Great Lakes. Some of those dams still serve a purpose, such as generating  electricity. But nearly all dams have had the effect of breaking the massive, intertwined Great Lakes ecosystem into thousands of ecologically fractured, dysfunctional units.

Removing obsolete dams is tremendously significant to restoring the Great Lakes ecosystem. Yanking a dam restores the natural flow and movement of sediment and nutrients in a river, which leads to healthier fish and wildlife populations.

It is encouraging to see communities tackling the often controversial job of removing obsolete dams. We recently featured a successful dam removal project in Watervliet, Mich. (Go here to read more about that project).

A growing number of communities are recognizing that free-flowing rivers can restore lucrative fisheries, provide increased recreational opportunities and increase property values. That’s good for the Great Lakes and the region’s economy.

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