In June 2014 The Watershed Center began traveling throughout the watershed conducting an inventory of small dams on both public and private property (with permission). This includes measuring the height of each dam, the habitat types above and below the dams and water velocity. Support for this project is provided by the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Stormwater and Restoration Initiative Project funded by the Department of Environmental Quality.
“In Michigan, we have thousands of small dams under five feet in height,” explained Sarah U’Ren, program director for The Watershed Center. “Of increasing concern is that most dams have a 50-year lifespan and by the year 2020 many of the dams in Michigan will be older than their intended lifespan. If they are not strategically managed and begin to fail, it could wreak havoc on our natural resources.” Specifically, if a dam fails, it quickly releases sediments and a large volume of water downstream, negatively affecting wildlife habitats.
The goal of the project, said McManus, is to identify small, unpermitted dams and help interested homeowners obtain grant money to maintain or remove those dams. The project will result in the long-term protection of water quality in the Grand Traverse Bay watershed by helping The Watershed Center identify which dams may need to be removed or repaired in the coming year