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Big Improvements for a Small Creek

April 2, 2010
By Kimberly Balke, January 2010 Catalyst
 

In 1867, a local citizen named John Wheeler built a dam on what came to be known as Wheeler Creek. Though there were a couple of fires at the dam site, the structure was repeatedly rebuilt over the years and has kept Wheeler Creek from freely flowing into the Manistee River ever since.

In October of 2009, CRA worked with partners to remove Wheeler Creek Dam. The concrete spillway was breaking apart, the stop logs were in poor condition, and the risk of failure was looming for the 20 foot high dam. The dam removal process has not been without challenges. Over 140 years worth of accumulated sediment and debris had collected in the ponds behind the dam, and with the highway and Manistee River immediately downstream of the dam we lacked an ideal sand trap site.


CRA contracted with Wade Trim and Molon Excavating to engineer and complete the dam removal project. The ponds were drawn down and the dam gradually removed in October and November. The stream continues to cut down to its natural streambed to accommodate for the 20’ of fall through the old impoundment area. It’s no wonder that John Wheeler thought this a good location to harness the energy of a steep, fast flowing stream to power his sawmill.

The project will last another 2 years with restoration work through the impoundment area and downstream, and monitoring of stream changes at the site. Project partners and funders have included MDNR Fisheries Division, MDEQ, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, MDOT, and Kanouse Outdoor Restoration. Landowners of the dam and upstream and downstream of the site, have been helpful and patient as we work together to restore this cold, clear, high quality trout stream.

Wheeler Creek Dam Removal Project Summary


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Conservation Resource Alliance

Bayview Professional Centre
10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 1180
Traverse City, MI 49684
231-946-6817 info@rivercare.org

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