Michigan has a legacy of aging and failing dams, with more than 2,500 dams fragmenting our state’s waterways. These dams impact wildlife by acting as physical barriers to upstream movement, warming impounded waters and altering natural stream processes like flooding, nutrient transfer and movement of woody debris. Worse, aging dams can fail leading to catastrophic fish kills, downstream property damage and costly infrastructure repair. By working with landowners to proactively remove dams that have outlived their usefulness, we are providing a pathway to restoration of healthy river systems.
Check out the Leading Small Dam Removal guidebook produced by Huron Pines.
Song of the Morning Dam
The Pigeon River is a world-class stream with clean, icy flows that support a coldwater ecosystem and fish species like brook trout, brown trout and steelhead. It’s a designated Blue Ribbon trout stream and a classic example of what a northern Michigan river should be. No other site divided the Pigeon River system like the Song of the Morning Dam. Dam removal had long been identified as the #1 priority for the health of the Pigeon River. Our community joined together to do the right thing for the river and users. The drawdown of the 45-acre upstream impoundment, followed by dam removal, site restoration and installation of a timber bridge are now complete. This project reconnected the Pigeon River to allow fish passage upstream for the first time in more than a century! We want to thank many dedicated funders for showing their support and making meaningful donations to this $600,000 project!
Just north of Michigan’s Alcona/Iosco county line and within the Au Sable Watershed, Wallace and Bryant creeks flow together to form the South Branch of the Pine River. The South Branch provides quality coldwater fish habitat for brook, brown and rainbow trout as well as the occasional steelhead, seasonal salmon and northern hogsucker. The State-threatened channel darter is also thought to be present here. Before the South Branch joins the Pine River, it is disrupted by Buhl Dam. Buhl Dam sits on U.S. Forest Service land and its removal has been deemed a top priority. The dam has outlived its useful lifespan and with a two-foot height difference between the top of the structure and its outfall, the remnants of Buhl Dam pose a barrier to fish passage and have led to warming water and downstream scouring from the fast-moving water. Huron Pines will remove the dam in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Michigan DNR and the Pine River Van-Etten Lake Coalition (PRVEL) to restore the natural flow and function of the Pine River.
After a small dam choked the natural flow of the Upper Black River in Otsego County for more than four decades, Huron Pines relieved the pressure. In 2013 we completed the removal of Saunders Dam in the Pigeon River Country State Forest to reconnect eight miles of the Upper Black River and its tributaries. The Upper Black River Council and other conservation partners had identified this project as a resource concern for many years, but removal of Saunders Dam was once seen as improbable since it was privately owned. The Michigan DNR purchased 517 acres surrounding Saunders Dam through the Natural Resource Trust Fund in 2011 and because of thoughtful collaboration between conservation partners, plans were set in place for structure removal once the public land acquisition was underway. This land is now being managed for the public good according to the Pigeon River Country Concept of Management and has walk-in access for individuals to enjoy camping, wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing in this beautiful area!