Kalamazoo River Plan Would Remove Otsego Dams

Sep 16, 2015

The Otsego Township Dam
Credit U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A coalition of federal and state environmental agencies wants to remove two dams near Otsego. The Kalamazoo River natural resource trustees say removing the Otsego City Dam and the Otsego Township Dam will improve habitat for wildlife and increase recreation along the Kalamazoo River. 

Lisa Williams is a contaminant specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She says the Environmental Protection Agency is about to remove toxic PCBs from behind those dams as part of the Superfund cleanup.

“It’s time to look at these dams coordinated with sediment removal, which has always been the reason why we couldn’t remove the dams before. The other reason is that there’s no real purpose for these dams any more. They aren’t being used for hydroelectric power, they aren’t important for flood control,” says Williams.

Removing the dams is part of a larger plan to make the Kalamazoo River what it was before PCB contamination using funding from responsible parties in PCB pollution. Trustees say that money could go to a number of projects—everything from battling invasive species to increasing recreation on the river.

Steve Hamilton is the president of the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council. He says the trustees need to focus on larger, more urgent projects in the watershed—like tearing down the dams.

“These dams are so old that they’ll take themselves out in the next decade very likely. Unless we spend millions of dollars to shore them up and that doesn’t make any sense. So we have this costly challenge that we have to face up to and here’s a one-time infusion of funding,” says Hamilton.

The trustees are seeking public opinion on their Kalamazoo River restoration plan through October 29th. You can send comments to kzoorivernrda@fws.gov.