Funding will go to shore up old dam
By Daniel Pepper
The Otsego Township Dam will be up for some repairs funded by a $725,00 grant by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The agency announced Friday, March 22, it would award one of six dam management grants to shore up the dam on the Kalamazoo River, located just off River Road.
“Funding from the Dam Management Program will allow the DNR to perform major repairs by replacing the structure pending remediation of the contamination in the former impoundment,” the agency stated in a press release.
Removing the dam has been discussed as part of the overall Superfund cleanup of the Kalamazoo River, the Environmental Protection Agency and the firms deemed responsible for the pollution of the river are negotiating the details of any cleanup, which would likely tackle the Otsego City Dam (in the city near Otsego Paper Inc.) next.
The state has owns the dam, which formerly produced hydroelectric power.
Otsego Township Supervisor Bryan Winn said that it was a positive step.
“I think it’s a step in the direction of at least not losing the dam and having a bigger problem,” Winn said. “I think if we lost it, the contaminants would all be downstream and it’d be worse.
“I think it’s a good effort on the state of Michigan’s part.”
He said he’d heard from people downstream worried about the dam.
“I’ve had conversations with folks downstream who are concerned about the dam,” Winn said.
The DNR stated, “The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Dam Safety Division has designated the Otsego Township Dam as a high hazard and the DNR is under an emergency order to address safety issues associated with the dam.”
Winn said he understood that it wasn’t ideal to spend money fixing a dam that should be removed, but that he thought it was obvious removal wouldn’t be happening very soon.
“The river didn’t get in the condition it’s in overnight and the repair isn’t going to happen overnight,” Winn said.
According to the DNR, hydro generation ceased in 1965 because it was no longer economically viable. The DNR acquired ownership of the property, including the dam, in 1967. Previously the impoundment level was lowered and portions of the dam were removed that included spillway gates, catwalk and powerhouse. The dam today is approximately 700 feet long and consists of earthen embankment, concrete spillway, and the former hydroelectric generation section. The dam is five feet high and has an impoundment of 67 acres that extends approximately 1.75 miles upstream.
Contact Dan Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (269) 673-5534 or (269) 685-9571.