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Boardman River Dam Update: 10/13

It’s been a long week for the many people involved or directly impacted by the sudden breech of Brown Bridge Dam a week ago today. It’s been a particularly long week for the property owners that received flood damage.   Molon and AMEC staff along with their insurance adjusters, MDEQ staff and numerous others have spent the week inspecting the drawdown structure trying to determine what went wrong.

During the past week Molon crews finished clearing debris from public and private bridges.  AMEC brought in engineers that inspected every public and private bridge for damage.  The most urgent crossings to be inspected and opened back up to traffic were the Garfield Road and River Road crossings. Everything checked out ok and the roads were opened back up to traffic by Monday afternoon.   The engineers also inspected the private bridges and only found a couple that received major damage from the event.  One bridge was actually taken out by the flood.

The river took a major hit but appears to have handled the floodwater fairly well.  During the past week AMEC, MDEQ staff and others have been collecting biological data and mapping the extent of the high water.  Biologists have collected nearly 300 dead fish, approximately 85% warm water species from the pond.  MDEQ biologists also collected aquatic insects at various locations downstream of the dam.  Closer to the dam they found both river and pond species.  The river species including mayflies, stoneflies, and
caddis flies were found in decent numbers and diversity which means the river wasn’t wiped out from an insect standpoint and the food base will recover quickly.    Within the pond itself by Sunday it was too late to rescue the warm water fish including bass, blue gill, pike, bass, perch and suckers that were stranded on the bottomlands.  Eagles, heron, otters, sea gulls and other animals have been feasting on the remains all week.  A work crew from the Grand Traverse Band spent the better part of two days collecting turtles that were released back into nearby lakes and marshes. These were mostly snappers and painted turtles.

The main concern right now is how cloudy the water continues to flow. This is from the fine organic material (silt) that’s still in the small backwaters of the remaining pond.  Molon crews constructed a rock weir approximately five foot high just above the dewatering structure once they had the breech under control.  They did this in an attempt to capture any sediment they could.  This silt is staying in suspension and flowing over the rock weir.  At the east end of the project in the sand delta area the sand traps held and effectively stopped any major head cutting upstream. Molon continues to clean out these traps on a daily basis.  Biologists are determining the best way to proceed given the current situation.

I said it before and I’ll say it again it could have been much, much worse. Had Molon crews backed up by Elmers trucks and other equipment not been able to control the breech, a wall of water at least twice the estimated 5-foot crest that did occur would have swamped the valley possibly taking out roads and causing much more property damage and who knows what else.   I asked Pat Cole, owner of Brady’s Bar who has a place on the river how his place faired and he said “the river came up 5 feet and my place sits at 8-feet so it was
close but ok”.   I know many other property owners that came back or waited out the flood reported a similar close call..I also know many weren’t as fortunate.  It’s those folks I feel the most badly for.

I’d like to thank John Russell from Great Lakes Images for the great pics from a Coast Guard helicopter from the day of the breech.

Please call me if you have any questions.

– Steve Largent, Boardman River Program Coordinator

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