USDA removes dam on Ontonagon River

What's happening: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service will remove the Lower Dam on the Ontonagon River, finishing a six-year habitat restoration plan. Originally built as an earthen dam in 1963, the dam created a 16-acre reservoir, but the area will now revert to the natural flow of the river’s east branch. The dam removal will provide a more natural approach to wildlife in the area, both in the water and around it. Approximately eight miles upriver will improve, promoting traditional habitats for the U.P.’s native species.

What will it take to remove the dam: With the reservoir already drained in 2018, the soil in the area have stabilized. Early vegetation has covered the area, with the roots providing additional strength for the land behind the dam. With no additional forces exerting itself on the dam, construction crews can take various earth-moving equipment to remove the earthen dam. Metal culverts and outlets will also be removed in the process. The work will be completed by the Atlantic Mine-based Blue Line Site Solutions and will be funded through the Collaborative Aquatic Landscape Restoration project through the USDA. 

What they're saying: “The Ottawa National Forest is committed to improving fish habitat,” says Darla Lenz, Ottawa Forest supervisor. “By investing funds into the removal of the Lower Dam, the Ottawa is showing its commitment to improving fish habitat and migration.”

What's next: Construction will begin after July 1 during low flow conditions to avoid disruptions to fish habitats and other sensitive species impacted by the procedures.
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