HRWC director responds to UM row coach re: Argo Dam

Laura Rubin, Executive Director for the Ann Arbor-based Huron River Watershed Council, recently responded to comments posted by Charley Sullivan to a story about Argo Dam at the Michigan Daily website. Sullivan is Assistant Head Coach for the University of Michigan's men's club rowing program. A summary of their exchange follows:

Sullivan's comments:

The rowable length of Barton Pond is shorter than the rowable length of Argo, though there is more surface area, and there are real access issues... And in the end, who cares how big the water is if you can't get to it or build a boathouse on it.

"it's better for the environment" -- so is no-one using an internal combustion engine, but that ain't happening -- but no-one advocating the removal of Argo Dam can quantify or show just how much better it would be in which specific ways. Even though they've been working on this for nearly a decade, they've done no serious scientific study . . . no data on water temperature on Argo, no data on sedimentation of Argo (in spite of Ms. Rubin making a specific claim in her quote,) no data specific to Argo Pond at all in fact.

Rubin's response:

The rowers are the ones specifically who told us that the pond was filling in with sediment and that the rowers were having a hard time rowing...finding a clear path up and down the pond. UM coach Greg Hartsuff stated that he thought there had been about 4 feet of deposition in the ponded area over the ~15 years between ~1990 and 2003. That's what impoundments and dams do. Basically they stop the movement of water and sediment. The sediment drops out and accumulates over time. If you want to keep an impoundment clear of weeds and sediment you need to dredge, apply herbicides or pesticides and actively manage it. It is an engineered system.

We do have data specific for Argo Pond. The data is on harmful flow variations caused by the dam and the poor quality fishery as a result of the dam. This can be found on the Huron River Watershed Council's website at

As for the talk about alternative rowing venues, the city staff and the rowing community need to have a serious discussion about alternatives. Some in the rowing community have suggested alternatives on Gallup and Barton that need exploration rather than a short dismissive statement.