Boardman River Watershed

Boardman River Watershed Prosperity Plan
Complete Plan

Boardman River Restoration

  • Brown Bridge Dam removal was completed in 2013 and resulted in the reestablishment of 2.8 miles of river channel.
  • Construction of the new Cass Road bridge was completed in 2016.
  • Boardman Dam was removed in 2017, with revegetation and restoration work in the project area.
  • Sabin Dam was removed in 2018, along with associated habitat restoration.
  • Construction of new Union Street Dam as part of Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s FishPass Project slated for 2021.
  • As the project continues, the expose bottomlands will be stabilized through native tree and shrub planting, seeding, and the installation of woody material. Invasive species management is critical as plants begin to reestablish.

Project Background: The Largest River Restoration Project in Michigan’s History

The largest river restoration project in Michigan’s history is happening right here in the Grand Traverse Bay watershed. The removal of Brown Bridge, Boardman and Sabin dams on the Boardman River will restore more than three river miles of native coldwater fisheries habitat, more than 250 acres of wetlands and nearly 60 acres of upland habitat.

The Watershed Center is involved in two collaborative efforts for the future of the Boardman and its watershed. First, we’re part of a team of conservation organizations and government agencies focused on dam removal. We received $533,000 in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding from EPA to manage sediment removal as the Brown Bridge and Sabin dams are dismantled. Managing sediment will protect aquatic habitat. This is critical because if excess sediments flow downstream, they could suffocate aquatic insects that provide food for fish.

Secondly, we are part of the leadership team developing an unprecedented new watershed plan that will establish a blueprint for the stewardship, economic well-being and quality of life of the Boardman watershed. By integrating economic, social and environmental objectives, this new Prosperity Plan will serve as a model for long-term stewardship of critical watersheds throughout Michigan and the nation. The plan also builds on the success of the Grand Vision and will result in on-the-ground projects that support the Grand Vision’s guiding principles.

The Boardman River is a significant resource in our region. It is the second largest tributary to Grand Traverse Bay, supplying 30 percent of the Bay’s surface water. The Boardman is also hailed as a Blue Ribbon trout stream, being one of the top 10 trout streams in Michigan.

Restoring the river will also bring positive economic benefits to the region – more than $3 million from increased recreation, tourism and property values.

Future generations will look back at this as a watershed moment, a point when the community rightfully decided to free a river and let it return to its wild and native grandeur.

Implementation Team

The team makes decisions for overall planning and directing the dam removals. Implementation team members include:

Ex Officio members include:

You can learn more about the Boardman River Dams Ecosystem Restoration Project

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