HRWC Dams and Impoundments Program

Dexter Dam Prior to Removal
Mill Pond Dam (Dexter) prior to removal

In 1995, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources “Fisheries Research Report” recommended removing select dams to improve fisheries.

On the Huron River, the MDNR identified three dams for removal:

  • Argo in Ann Arbor
  • Mill Pond in Dexter (this dam is now removed)
  • Peninsular Paper in Ypsilanti (feasibility study for removing the dam is in process)

At that time and the years since, HRWC has supported the communities in which these dams are located with technical assistance about stream flows, the impacts of dams and other flow alterations, and options for dam management.

In the last several years, HRWC’s work with dams has broadened to look at all 100 dams across the watershed. HRWC is learning more about the systematic problems caused by an entire watershed of dams, as well as problems caused by specific dams. HRWC will continually work with all communities, dam owners, and dam operators in improving the functionality of their dams and potentially removing the dams altogether.

To learn more about the general threats that dams and impoundments pose to the health of a river, go here.

Check out the story of our work in Dexter to remove the dam

A History of HRWC’s Dam Activities

Activity Activity Description Links to more information
Co-funding Peninsular Paper Dam Removal Feasibility Study HRWC and the City of Ypsilanti have hired an engineering firm to study the feasibility of redeveloping and revitalizing the Pen Park area for more recreational and economic uses and improved water quality from removing the dam.
Advocating for Argo Dam Removal. 2007-2011. HRWC worked with scientists, governments, and outdoor groups in pushing for removal of Argo Dam. The dam has not been removed.
Removal of Mill Dam 2007-2009. HRWC worked with the Village of Dexter in removing the dam on Mill Pond. Making History on Mill Creek
Seminar December 2009. HRWC hosted a seminar providing communities with tools and resources for dam removal decisions.
Seminar Series 2010. HRWC facilitated three regional meetings where eighteen organizations from across the state shared their experiences on dam projects, their hopes for Michigan’s rivers, and recommendations to their peers and the DNR and DEQ for how to “make the grade” for the state’s dam infrastructure. Re*Envisioning Dam Management in Michigan
Inventory Revision 2011-2012. HRWC updated its database of watershed dams by contacting dam owners via mail and phone. Aerial imagery was used to find new dams that had escaped notice previously. Identify and getting contact information for current dam owners was the top priority of this database revision. Huron River Report, Dam-nation.
Dam Removal Prioritization HRWC created a ranking system that prioritizes which dams have the best potential or best reason to be removed, based on social, economic, and ecological data. HRWC has used the list of highly ranked dams to meet with individual dam owners and discuss the results and how HRWC can work with them in improving their dam management. HRWC will continue to explore the possibility of removing dams ranked high on this list. Huron River Report, Dam-nation.
Huron River Dams Network This network connects dam operators, owners and engineers of dams on the mainstem of the Huron River. The group meets periodically and communicates regularly on issues, ideas and operations pertaining to dam management on the Huron.
Small dam owner workshop Anyone who operates, owns or maintains dams, and people who simply care about local rivers, were invited to join guest speakers from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Spicer Group, and HRWC’s in-house experts. Luke Trumble, P.E. from the state’s Hydrologic Studies and Dam Safety Unit, discussed the regulatory framework. Shawn Middleton, P.E. discussed how to conduct your own visual inspection and steps for creating a maintenance plan.