Friday, October 31, 2008

Chesaning Dam

$900K grant paves way for Chesaning dam removal

Argus-Press Staff Writer

CHESANING - The Chesaning dam is on its way out after a $900,000 grant through the Clean Michigan Initiative will help push funding for the Shiawassee River Restoration and removal of the dam.

State Senator Roger Kahn, R-District 32, has been very involved in the project and was instrumental in the push for the grant, said Bob Grnak, Kahn's media coordinator.“We think its the most wonderful thing ever,” Village Manager Marlene Schultz said. “It's not like a loan we have to pay back. We really feel fortunate and if it wasn't for Sen. Kahn we wouldn't have had this.

Total cost of the restoration - including planning, engineering and construction - is about $1.7 million. In addition to the grant, funding also will come from private citizens, businesses, the township and village.The dam has declined to the point where maintenance and repair is not a practical option.Tom Meder, coordinator for the Shiawassee River Restoration Committee, said they have been working on this project for seven years.

“The dam was deteriorating and something had to be done,” Meder said. “It has been repaired over the course of the last 30 years, but it is beyond repair now. We are going to remove it.”Engineers have developed a solution that restores fish passage, creates new river habitat, interconnects fragmented aquatic habitat and preserves the impoundment needed for the Showboat Festival, while eliminating the long-term liabilities associated with a failing dam.
Meder also believes the restoration will help to boost tourism.

“It will become a really prolific fishery now and people will be coming to use it,” Meder said. “Our campgrounds will literally be more useable because we will have fish right up near the campgrounds.”Meder explained the Shiawassee River goes right through the Chesaning campgrounds and with the dam fish cannot swim near the camping areas.

The dam was built in 1863 to create power for the grist mill and was a key element to Chesaning's success as a lumber hub in the mid-1800s.However, the dam is most notably used today for the annual Chesaning Showboat Festival, which is a major aspect of the cultural identity in the village.Meder is hopeful the project starts in the fall.
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