Watershed Council Director on Dam Removal

In the Winter 2008 edition of the Huron River Watershed Council's quarterly newsletter, Executive Director Laura Rubin provides an update on dam removal. Citing the 1995 DNR Fisheries study that prioritizes dam removal in the Huron River Watershed, Rubin writes about two local dams, Dexter and Argo:

Neither of these dams provide hydropower, nor do they serve as flood control dams. They are operated as run of the river, which means that what comes in goes out (like a big bathtub). Rather than help control or minimize flooding, these dams are greater safety hazards as they age. If they fail, they potentially could flood residents and businesses downstream.

The Dexter Dam was removed in 2008. A member of the local paddling group, the Raw Strength & Courage Kayakers, describes his "first descent" of the now free-flowing tributary:

Approaching the former dam site, there are several small riffles, one with a mildly surfable wave at this water level. The former dam site itself has a small ledge drop, best run on the center left (very shallow to the right). It can be side-surfed, and those with short playboats might even get a flat spin in it. My RPM was too long, though. From there it's flat water to the Huron, and take out wherever suits (I went on to Dexter-Huron Metropark).

Mill Creek after dam removal - Dexter, MI

Argo Dam is the next candidate for removal. The dam and its adjacent embankment (an earthen extension of the main structure) represent a growing maintenance headache for the City of Ann Arbor. Removal or modification of the dam could create an opportunity for whitewater kayakers to have a new practice and training facility on the Huron River. Installing whitewater features will lead to positive environmental changes for the river--increased aeration, fish passage, and sediment-trapping. However, any drastic change to the water levels in Argo Pond will ultimately displace the well-established rowing community. HRWC's Rubin writes:

We want to keep the rowing in the City of Ann Arbor, but find another impoundment for rowing. Balancing the needs of the rowing community with the ecological and economic benefits of removal is the tricky part of this drama.

As fellow watermen, kayakers should support Rubin's statement. Rowing is an important part of the community--just like kayaking--and rowers deserve to continue using the Huron to practice and train for their sport. However, diversifying the recreational opportunities on the river and providing positive environmental changes are two major benefits of removing Argo Dam.

Kayakers and rowers alike will have the opportunity to comment on the City's plans for Argo Dam, beginning in January 2009. Stay tuned for announcements about meeting locations and times.

See you on the river!