NEW: the DNR's position

The Discussion Board: Save the Redridge Dam: NEW: the DNR's position
By CindyM on Thursday, December 20, 2001 - 1:18 am:

As an update; the position of the DNR on what should happen at Redridge is that they favor drawing down the impoundment pond and re-opening the river. Should we wish to keep the dam as a dam, we will be required to provide a fish ladder. or,We could re-open the river while leaving the structures in place, just not functioning as a dam and thus losing the impoundment. Saving the historic structure is not their concern.
As concerned local citizens trying to help with this project, my husband and I really need to hear from you folks out there! What do you want done here? What is important to you? Let us hear from you. Talk to your friends, send them here to this discussion board or get in contact with us. Your opinion matters! Cindy

By Marc Slis on Saturday, December 22, 2001 - 11:10 pm:

Big development, there. Wondered when the the various other government agencies would pop up out of the woodwork to add their 2 cents. Figures that the DNR would add some requirements to the mix.
I think for the DNR to require a fish ladder or restoring the river after 100 + years is laughable. Why is there a need of one, now? On what research do they base such a knee-jerk reaction? I suspect they are after something for nothing, and just want credit for doing anything.

Sure, I would love to see a larger portion of the river become accesible to the steelhead and salmon, but does the limited length now, restrict the numbers, or is it what makes a small, but productive bit of stream below the dam.
What of the wildlife that has flourished along the shore of the lake over the last 100 years? What happens to the ducks, geese, beaver, muskrat, etc, etc? What happens to the predators that rely on them for food? Need I run up the entire food chain from paramecium to the big cats or coyote of the area? For the first time in a long time, I have to question not only the intention, but the intelligence of our DNR.

What of the rate of watershed erosion from Redridge to Perrault Lake? Doesn't the Salmon Trout originate at the lake? What happens to the lake level, there, if the river is allowed to run down, undammed? What would happen to the thousands of dollars the DNR flushes down the toilet, poisoning the lake and stocking it with fingerling, domestic, hybrid trout? Will we still be able to go to Perrault and catch 4 inch brookies?
Ok, a little sarcasm, but I think that I just took the subject a lot farther than the DNR did before laying down the law on what THEY demand for the Salmon-Trout.

I think they need to removed from the equation, based on an instant, poorly thought out response to an already complex and difficult situation. I am ashamed that I actually support them.

I visited the dam today, taking a friend who is a fellow angler and also a marine biologist. What we saw is an ecosystem in place, thriving and in no need of man to come in and screw up what is obviously working.

On the other hand, what we also saw was a structure that looks to be unrepairable or extremely difficult to replace, without majorly disturbing the area and possibly altering the lanscape, considerably. I am concerned that whatever happens is going to seriously disrupt or destroy the superb fishing, downstream.

As a last note, since I was last there in Aug or Sept, someone has cleared some nearby trees as well as a few growing out of the dam and dumped them into the dam pockets.

This was all off the top of my head, but I hope my rants and raves start some discussion, at least...

By CindyM on Sunday, December 23, 2001 - 12:15 pm:

Thank You Marc for adding your comments! We need more input like this!

The DNR's stance is in line with a growing national movement to restore rivers and remove dams. Trout Unltd is also a major proponent of this movement. (see the removal of Edwards Dam from the Kennebec River in Maine) We believe the unique and historic site at Redridge provides a case for keeping these dams though. The steel dam is the largest of its type in the world (there are only 2 surviving of 3 ever built) and it is a recognized engineering landmark.

The trees were removed per DEQ order by Stanton Township as the Dam Inspector indicated they were a further danger to the structure; any of them toppling in a storm could have caused the dam to breach.

On Friday Dec 21 we met and discussed this project with Industrial Archaeologists at MTU. Finally we have some official input from the historic preservation perspective. While recognizing the greater significance of the steel dam, they also point out that the wood dam, while less rare, is in a good position to demand consideration also. It exists in conjunction with the history of the steel dam and is also better preserved than most due to its time spent underwater. They agree there are still 2 main options for this site, leading to many other possibilities: River or Impoundment Pond? Once that choice is made, then we can consider how best to preserve the wood dam.

Your comments regarding Perrault Lake and the upstream ecosystem are excellent points and deserve further consideration. As you point out, the wood dam needs more than a facelift if the impoundment is to be kept. Either choice will cause disruption of the site and require funding that Stanton Township does not have. The DNR assures us they have methods to minimize the downstream disruptions inevitable with either choice but seem to discount the upstream disruptions you are concerned with.

Balancing all the demands for this complex site is possible. The DEQ will accept either choice so long as safety is ensured; The DNR, while favoring restoring the river, will go along with retaining the impoundment if a fishladder is provided; The Historic Preservation Office has not yet issued any demands, but the MTU archaeologists indicate they could accept either choice while favoring either leaving the wood dam as it looks now or restoring it to what it used to look like. In order to tip the balance, those in favor of keeping the impoundment pond (or not) need to speak up-NOW! At this point, most locals, like Marc, appear to favor keeping the impoundment.

Thanks to all who contribute to this interesting discussion, and let's keep it civil, like Marc did. Cindy

By Paul Meier on Sunday, December 23, 2001 - 4:06 pm:

Since I am not a resident of Michigan, I guess I am not really eligible to comment. But, the maternal side of my family were among the first to come to the Copper Country in the 1840's, so it is "HOME" to us. One thing that baffles me about the DNR and the back to nature movement in general is the idea that all that is human is bad. Weather one believes in creationism or evolution, humans are a ligitimate species on this earth and as such, we are part of the ecology. Keep the dams - both of them. They are now part of that ecosystem and are historic monument to human endevores. They are not poisoning anything. The DNR needs to recognize that, like it or not, humans have an effect and it is about time we start to acknowlege that it isn't automatically a negative effect. The native copper mines of the Keweenaw were a very ecologically benign endevore yet there are those among us who seem to think that anything remotely related to the mines should be eliminated and happily type out their views on computers that recieve their power through copper wire.

Restore the Atlantic dam. One, you will preserve the existing ecosytem. Two, it puts the steel dam in persective. It is a recognized historic site and it is time to demand equal rights for humans.

By Marc Slis on Wednesday, December 26, 2001 - 8:55 pm:

Paul makes a very good point in that the older, wooden dam puts the steel dam in perspective. their two histories are intertwined with eachother, the history of the Coppper Country and the copper industry, as well.

By CindyM on Thursday, December 27, 2001 - 11:28 am:

a comment made in conversation here regarding Perrault Lake and the far upstream- didnt that lake exist prior to the dams so it is not contingent on them to remain now? Lowering the impoundment directly behind the dams shouldnt affect the level of Perrault Lake.
I am in favor of keeping the impoundment and restoring the wood dam in the long run, but fixing the wood dam will probably require draining it for some period anyway, wont it? Wont it also require building a road (to the wood dam)? This project is bigger than it first appears! Cindy

By CindyM on Thursday, December 27, 2001 - 3:19 pm:

In answer to my question, Ive been told it is not neccessary to drain the impoundment to fix the dam. Cindy

By Marc on Monday, December 31, 2001 - 12:07 am:

Who says it's not neccesary to drain the impoundment? I'm curious as to how the dam can be fixed w/out it. I've put a bit of thought into that and it seems that to replace timbers, you'd have to drain. Course I'm no dam engineer:)

By CindyM on Monday, December 31, 2001 - 8:08 am:

LOL! Me neither! Apparently the secret is to drive pilings behind the dam and attach big sheets of corrugated metal. It is not clear to me whether this "new" dam will remain then or be removed after repairing the old dam... like you say, we need a dam engineer....!
From what Ive read, the last time the pond was drained was in 1953 to work on the wood dam. The steel dam has topped over twice, once in 1941(0r 1943?) and again in 1976. The holes were cut into it in 1979 to prevent that from happening again. Wow, can you imagine that much water there?? Cindy

By Marc on Monday, December 31, 2001 - 3:42 pm:

Driving pilings and sheet metal was exactly the only thing my friend and I could come up with the day we visited the dam a couple weeks ago! Glad to hear we were on the right track, though I am quite surprised.
I visited a website for an archetichtural(sp) society last week and left a message on their discussion board, trying to drum up some professional interest, but I see no bites on here, yet. I suggested this site if they were interested. I've found some rather large lists of sites concerning preservation funding and am slowly making my way through them, but haven't found anything promising, yet. Will forward you anything of interest, as I come across it.
The steel dam topping over must have been something to see!
Do you want me to talk to the geophysics professors to see if they are interested in surveying the place(GPR or Seismic), even if only to drum up interest with the faculty and students??
My son is talking to me in the background and just mentioned the Army Corps of Engineers. I wonder if they would be any help, such as the actual work involved in fixing the dam??

By CindyM on Tuesday, January 01, 2002 - 11:51 am:

Marc, Yes, Please! Talk to anyone you can- we need to keep stirring this around. The Industrial Archaeologists at Tech were great for expediting contact with SHPO since they know actual people there- my anonymous little voice was being ignored! Someone who knows someone at ASCE would be a help too, I emailed them at their website but no answer yet. I have no idea if the Army Corps of Engineers would be any help, how would I find that out? Heck, I cant even get an answer from Houghton County Emergency Management who is supposed to help write an emergency action plan for the dam. If we keep talking someone is bound to turn up with more ideas and help. thank you for YOUR help!! Cindy

By Marc on Friday, January 04, 2002 - 4:19 pm:

Cindy, Going out of town for a week, back on the 12th. A friend at Tech gave me an interactive learning CD to teach me the science of fish ladders and Cross Drains, etc. Hopefully the knowledge can help.
Dropped a line to a couple of my old prof's at Tech and should hear back before I return.
Have another couple people interested in helping out. Should hear from there on here, eventually. Hope your holidays went well!

By Lesley on Saturday, January 05, 2002 - 11:17 pm:

This is completely off the top of my head, but is it possible (and/or cheaper)to shore up the existing dam by building another structure in front of it - right next to it? Would this eliminate tearing down the existing dam, as well as having to lower the impoundment? By building it downstream, the existing dam could hold the water (at least enough, or sort of!) while it was built. Once it was in place, the existing dam would be still be there and would still act as the "front line," but the new one would really be there as a fail safe, in place to do the real work. The new structure could be covered over, tied into, or "cosmetic-ed" up to look like part of the original dam. But not being an engineer, dam or other, this may be the dumbest idea yet.

By Lesley on Saturday, January 05, 2002 - 11:25 pm:

Ooops! Got time to read some more previous postings, and the dam-in-front-of-a-dam has already been suggested. (At least other people think off the top of their heads, too!) Any answers on whether the old dam can stay with a new one in place?

By CindyM on Sunday, January 06, 2002 - 11:36 am:

Hi Lesley, All of us non-dam-engineers are sort of flailing around trying to figure out what can be done...... It is my understanding that building a new dam upstream from the wood dam is the preferred solution, taking all stress off of it so it can be rebuilt to look like it used to. We think it shouldnt be too hard to get locals and loggers to donate logs, square them off and rebuild the cribs once we get a new structure in place.
My searching lately has focused on finding a Professional Engineer willing to do the study we need. MTU students want to be involved but we need a PE to submit the official report. The DNR indicates they will provide info for the fish ladder and will be able to limit the downstream disruptions while the new construction goes on. I am waiting to hear back from several leads to ASCE that will hopefully find us the PE we need! Its hard to make a plan and consider funding when you dont even know what you need yet..... Gee, anybody know a PE who knows dams, likes to fish, appreciates history and has the means to donate their skill??? Keep talking..... Cindy

By Marc on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 8:35 pm:

Just got back and I think I have an answer to finding the right PE, maybe, hopefully. Give me a week to poke around in the right places...

By CindyM on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 8:46 am:

Hi Marc, Thats great! Another interesting point has been brought up, several people have questioned the how and why of a fish ladder being required. Since it is the steel dam blocking fish, not just the wood dam, they wonder just how we would bypass that?? We need to talk to the DNR again about this. Another point is that because the Salmon Trout is blocked to Lake fish it has no lamprey eel problems and thats a good thing..... Cindy

By Doug on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 2:19 pm:

I am completely in favor of keeping the wood dam in place. It is a piece of history that has been there a long time.

My question is - If the wood dam was torn down to "restore" the river, what would also have to be done to the steel dam? A giant hole cut in it to allow the river to flow through? Totally unacceptable to me.

I think the term you are looking for for a temporary dam is cofferdam. A cofferdam is a dam that is built to hold back water from an area where underwater work is being done. For example: cofferdams were used to make "holes in the water" to allow the pillars for the Mackinaw Bridge to be built.

I think you must be mistaken about the steel dam toppling over anytime in its life. I can guarantee that if that had happened in the 40's or 70's, it would have never been rebuilt again because there was no need for it.

By admin Kevin Musser on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 2:33 pm:

Doug, The term "toppling over" was in reference to the fact that the steel dam was designed to allow water to flow over the top of the dam without damage to the dam. Although the damage to the road below would be in question if this were to occur, this was the issue.

By Doug on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 2:53 pm:

Ah yes, what a difference the letter l makes - topping over vs. toppling. Water flowing over the top makes much more sense than the dam laying down on the job. Thanks for the clarification

By Marc on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 3:30 pm:

I was talking to the Principle at EB Holman elementary school laast night about maybe getting the only Stanton Township school involved at some point(maybe...) and he mentioned that there is/was a program at Tech that concerned retired engineers donating time for certain efforts. He said this was years ago, but it may still be around. I'm going to Tech on Monday to talk to the Alumni Office and some of my old prof's. I'll drop you a line Monday nite with an update. Leaving Tuesday for five weeks, but will still have internet and email.

By Bob Goniea on Wednesday, January 23, 2002 - 12:29 pm:

Just to add to what Kevin was saing about the topping over issue. The steel dam could withstand it, but wasnt designed to do it all the time. The designers built a waste weir (a sort of canal) just to the west of the dam to direct overflow back to the river. It was blocked off in 1980 when the current road through Redridge was built. Unfortunately they didnt feel the need to preserve it since the holes they cut in the steel dam meant that water would never reach the level of the weir. A real shame. You can see pictures of what's left of it at my Redridge site accessible through my homepage:
just click on the "Redridge and other U.P. stuff" button and you're there.:)

I am kinda wondering just how they would drive the pilings and sheet metal to shore up the dam? They just put in a similar structure (seawall) just down the road from me here in Houghton Lake and it requires some rather heavy machinery. Seems like it would be a real challenge to #1 get it down behind the steel dam to do the job and #2 place it so it can drive pilings the entire width of the timber dam. I just hope they dont have to tear up the area too much to get it done.

Bob G.

By CindyM on Wednesday, January 23, 2002 - 11:57 pm:

Hi Bob, Nice to see you here, I have enjoyed your site. the idea of pilings etc or a coffer dam was mentioned in passing as a possible solution- you may be right, it may take too much heavy equipment to do that. Another solution I saw somewhere involves putting down heavy felt-like filter material and weighing it down with rocks sand and gravel to block the holes, this was mentioned for an earthen dam but may apply. If we could stop the water flowing through we could then restore the spillway on top. Our troubles center on our lack of an expert coming forward to say how to solve this!

Do you happen to know what was done to the dam in the 1950's when the impoundment was last drained? I cant find detailed info on that and was wondering if mine rock was put in behind the dam to shore it up then? Im going to the archives at tech next week and will look there.

Here's a wild idea- we may ask some divers we know to go take a look and tell us what they see on the upstream face. Crazy? :-) maybe. Cindy

By Bob Goniea on Thursday, January 24, 2002 - 1:35 pm:

Cindy, I dont have any details on the 50's repairs either, but I do know that when it was originally built the dam had an earthen embankment on the upstream side that sloped down from the top of the dam to the riverbed at a slope of 1.5 to 1. From my visits to the dam (last time was summer of 99) it looks like it's still there. When I stood on the middle of the dam and looked down into the water the riverbottom was no more than 2 feet below the surface. The diver idea (or even a boat with a really good depthfinder) might not be a bad one. It might reveal washouts in this embankment which are allowing more water reach the timbers than they were designed to hold. I'll have to think about this later. I've gotta run to class.
Bob G.

By John Van Dyke ( on Thursday, February 21, 2002 - 10:24 am:

Give the river back to the fish. take out the dam or at least open the river to "natural" condition.

By Cindy M ( on Thursday, February 21, 2002 - 4:49 pm:

Hi John, Thanks for commenting. I am curious why you want this, can you explain your reasoning? What would you have us do with the steel dam? Cindy

By Jim Siadak ( on Monday, August 12, 2002 - 1:26 am:

Just a few notes to clarify the DNR's position on dams... Fish Division has two reasons for policy for eliminating unused dams. First, the impoundments behind ALL dams eventually fill up with silt. It's just the nature of the beast. As the water gets shallower, it warms up, thereby warming the water that passes over it and warming the stream below. Second, an unmaintained dam will eventually fail, sending tons of silt and debris downstream with catastrophic damage to the streambed downstream. Neither situation is good for trout, thus the reason for removal of all dams, especially those that have no real purpose anymore. Actually, the DNR does not have the authority to order removal of dams. They only act in an advisory capacity to the DEQ which now regulates such matters. Hope this helps...

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