Hike funding

Muskegon River Watershed Assembly receives funding for dam removal

MECOSTA COUNTY – The Muskegon River Watershed Assembly and its partners have received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support the removal of the Altona and Buckhorn dam projects, according to a news release from the MECOSTA COUNTY. ‘organization.

On Nov. 10, the NFWF announced that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and its partners, made up of local organizations and federally recognized tribes, had received $5 million to remove 27 watercourse barriers in 14 Michigan counties to restore passage of aquatic organisms, according to the statement. .

As one of the partners, the MRWA will receive $550,000 of the funding to be used for the removal of the Altona and Buckhorn dams, MRWA Director Scott Faulkner told the Pioneer.

Very significant work has already been done on the two dam projects, Faulkner said, which was funded by DNR and USFWS funding.

“Altona has a complete engineering and design plan for the removal and a permit has been applied for through EGLE (Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Environment),” he said. “For the Buckhorn Dam, MRWA is on track to have a full engineering and design plan, with a permit submitted within the next three to six months.”

The goal of the Altona Dam Project is to restore habitat and connectivity in the Little Muskegon River subwatershed, as part of the Muskegon Watershed and the Great Lakes, through dam removal , according to information provided by the MRWA.

Issues with the site include that the dam retains sediment and water, which blocks more than 15 miles of passage for aquatic organisms and access to fish habitats upstream. Additionally, a large scour pool has formed causing widening and erosion on the downstream side of the dam, and there are public safety concerns associated with people crossing the ruined structure and the need to carry over it. .

The benefits of removing the deteriorating dam include restoring the natural dimensions of the stream bottom and channel, restoring the natural movement of aquatic organisms, and creating a stable and safe site on the river.

The project will include the stabilization of the embankments and the eroded bank; restore the flow channel; leveling and slope of newly created banks; and the planting of native trees and shrubs.

Plans for Buckhorn Dam along Buckhorn Creek in Paris Park, which abuts the White Pine Trail Linear State Park, include stream bank stabilization and maintenance of the trail crossing to ensure its integrity , and the restoration of a free-flowing river.

When complete, seven miles of natural waterways will be reconnected to allow the movement of fish upstream and downstream to create new fishing opportunities.

“The two dam removals will open up miles of river that will provide access to many aquatic species, including brook trout,” MRWA lead watershed scientist Dr Marty Holtgren said in the statement. “Brook trout will benefit from the newly available quality spawning habitat and cold water refuge areas.

Faulkner said the best-case scenario for Altona Dam removal is 2023, and the Buckhorn Dam project will likely be in 2024 because it is a larger and more complex project.

According to the NFWF, funding to MiDNR, its partners and projects will reconnect nearly 200 miles of upstream rivers and streams and improve climate resilience, river connectivity, passage of aquatic organisms and eliminate public safety risks, according to the release.

“Federal funding for these high-impact watershed projects is a direct reflection of the strength of our relationships with our tribal partners within the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, as well as with the DNR and other government agencies. ‘State here in Michigan,’ Faulkner said in The Release. “We are very pleased to see several restoration projects in place in 2023 to benefit this incredible watershed for generations to come.”