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Posted 11/28/2018

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By Emily Schaefer, public affairs specialist

Construction teams have been actively engaged and moving dirt since 2017 to remove two dams on the Boardman River in Traverse City, Michigan.    

The Boardman River Ecosystem Restoration Project is one of the most comprehensive dam removal and restoration projects in Michigan’s history and one of the largest such projects in the Great Lakes Basin, according to The Boardman, A River Reborn, http://theboardman.org/.

The multi-phased project will "help restore the Boardman River to its natural historic conditions and result in significant ecological benefit throughout the watershed," said Carl Platz, Great Lakes program manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “As a result of the strong partnership and collaboration of several federal, state, tribal and local stakeholders all focused on this common goal, an amazing transformation of the lower Boardman River is becoming a reality." 

The overall Boardman River Ecosystem Restoration Project involves removal of the Brown Bridge, Boardman and Sabin dams, and replacement of the Union Street Dam. The Brown Bridge Dam was removed through a locally-led effort in 2012, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USACE, facilitated the Boardman and Sabin dam removals.  

The purpose of this comprehensive ecosystem restoration project was to reestablish the cold-water aquatic ecosystem of the lower Boardman River and to reconnect up to 211 miles of this Great Lakes tributary to enhance populations, diversity and movement of native fish species between the Boardman River system and Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan, while also restoring over 250 acres of wetlands.

Implementation of this initiative is made possible through federal funding provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and by leveraging significant non-federal funding from various entities. For the Sabin Dam removal project, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians is serving as the non-federal project sponsor under the USACE Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Authority, and is providing 35 percent of the total project cost as required by the program. 

Working in close partnership with USACE, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is facilitating the final phase of the Boardman River Ecosystem Restoration Project, involving replacement and upgrading of the Union Street Dam.

The existing dam will be replaced with a FishPass system that will serve as an experimental site to test and develop new selective fish sorting technologies. This project is the first of its kind and has garnered national and international interest, as it seeks to ensure sea lamprey and other invasive species are prevented from moving upstream, while simultaneously allowing both upstream and downstream passage of desired native fish species.

Once the best techniques and technologies are determined, the experimental facility will be converted into a permanent fish passage structure and lessons learned can be shared regionally, nationally and even globally. Project design is underway and is scheduled for implementation to begin as early as 2020.

Learn more by visiting the Implementation Team website: http://theboardman.org/ and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, website: https://www.lre.usace.army.mil/.

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