Located on the Huron River in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Peninsular Paper Dam was originally constructed in 1867 to provide power for paper manufacturing. The dam failed in 1918 and was rebuilt in 1920. However, it no longer generates power and all electricity-generating equipment has been removed from the powerhouse.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) considers the removal of Pen Dam a priority for improving river health, improving fish habitat, and improving recreation. MDNR first recommended removal of Pen Dam in 1995.
The City of Ypsilanti owns the dam and is responsible for maintaining it. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) inspected the dam in 2014 and required either a maintenance timeline to bring the dam up to safety standards or a decision to remove the dam. The City of Ypsilanti then approached HRWC to discuss options for repairing the dam or removing it. In 2018 the City of Ypsilanti and HRWC hired an engineering firm, with some funding support provided by the Friends of Pen Park, to do a feasibility study for removing the dam, restoring the river, and revitalizing Pen Park.
The Ypsilanti City Council voted to remove the dam. HRWC is supporting the city in planning for the dam removal, the restoration of the river, and the revitalization of Pen Park. HRWC is providing technical expertise, advice, support, and facilitation. All decisions are made by the City.
HRWC’s role is to help make sure the project is safe, transparent, and improves ecological and public health. HRWC and the City of Ypsilanti are currently actively administering the removal design and supporting analysis of Pen Dam. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Habitat Grant Program has provided funding for the effort into October 2022.
A feasibility study was completed in 2018 and was presented to Ypsi’s City Council. The City Council hosted a Town Hall meeting in February 2019 to share the findings with the community and get feedback before making a decision. The City then collected feedback from the community via its website. On May 7, 2019, Ypsilanti’s City Council voted in favor of a resolution to approve the removal of Peninsular Dam. (Resolution No. 2019-101)
Having participated in dozens of dam removal projects in Michigan, yours appears to be as smooth a path to success as anyone can hope to have, especially when the size of the dam and river are considered. We see no fundamentally challenging or limiting impediments or obstacles to removing this dam.
–Dr. Bryan Burroughs, Executive Director, Michigan Trout Unlimited (letter to City of Ypsilanti, Feb. 20, 2019)
Ypsilanti Public Engagement
The City is leading a public engagement effort as part of this project to maintain transparency, convey information, answer questions, and encourage residents to guide the vision for river restoration. Public Engagement is led by an ad hoc committee comprised of volunteers, stakeholders, and City officials. The committee’s meetings are public; agendas, minutes, and links to meetings can be found through the Agenda Center on the city website under the heading “Pen Dam Public Engagement Committee.” The meetings are scheduled to occur virtually at 7:30pm on July 21, 2021; August 4, 2021; August 11, 2021; and September 1 2021.
Ypsilanti Workshops and Townhall Meetings
The Public Engagement Committee is leading three virtual workshops with targeted focus groups and one virtual townhall-style meeting. The Zoom Link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89195853988 (Meeting ID: 891 9585 3988 and the Toll Free Phone Numbers are: (888) 475-7799 or (877) 853-5257)