Michigan Slates Two More Dams for Demolition

OTSEGO TOWNSHIP, Mich.— The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has begun the process of tearing down a 113-year old dam on the Kalamazoo River. Built in 1902, the dam is one of two being planned for removal near the town of about 6,000 about 30 miles south of Grand Rapids.

The goal? Improving habitat for wildlife and recreation for people along the 130-mile river.

A joint project between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and Environmental Protection Agency, the dam removals near Ostego Township join higher profile—often controversial— dam removals from other states around the country.

According to a report from National Geographic, more than 70 U.S. dams came down in 2014, highlighted by the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam on Washington’s Elwha river, a story highlighted by the 2014 viral film Dam Nation and praised by the USGS scientists.

“As existing dams age and outlive usefulness, dam removal is becoming more common, particularly where it can benefit riverine ecosystems,” Gordon Grant, Forest Service hydrologist told Science. “But it can be a complicated decision with significant economic and ecologic consequences. Better understanding of outcomes enables better decisions about which dams might be good candidates for removal and what the river might look like as a result.”

Michigan joins states spanning from California to the New England in a nation-wide dam removal fever fueled by river restoration efforts. Today, Michigan announced the renewal of a $350,000 dam removal grant that began in 2011 and has doled out over $3 million to date.

The USGS says that over 1,000 American dams have been torn down since 1975, and while the frequency is increasing in recent years, the number is a small dent a total of over 75,000 U.S. dams listed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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