Conservation Resource Alliance
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Syers Lake Dam Removal

July 10, 2019
Suffice to say, we’ve had enough strange weather this year. Like most of the region, excessive rain has caused abnormally high water levels, and we are closely watching Syers Lake Dam and Syers Lake in the Little Manistee Watershed for flooding and damage.
 
As summer rolls forward, we may face a completely different threat. Immediately below the dam, Syers Creek flows intermittently due to deficiencies in the dam’s water control structure. As a result, the creek at times runs dry and provides little to no habitat for aquatic wildlife. In addition to a history of structural failures, the sand berm dam has been blocking the movement of aquatic species, elevating water temperatures and increasing sedimentation in Syers Creek for 50 years.
 
Construction on the removal of Syers Lake Dam occurs late July when the dam will be replaced with an appropriately sized structure that accommodates more natural streamflow and provides a safe crossing for vehicles. “The size of the dam and the level of planning and fundraising are not always proportional as illustrated by this project,” explains CRA Biologist and Project Manager, Nate Winkler. “In this case, we have a relatively small dam resulting in high costs ecologically, logistically, and financially.”
 
Earlier this summer, Winkler and students from Western Michigan University performed a fish survey in the creek below the dam. The crew observed species such as tadpole madtom, blacknose shiner, Iowa dace, and young-of-the-year coho salmon. This year’s severe weather serves as a distinct reminder of the problems that dams and other barriers cause for our lakes and streams, and the wildlife that depends on them. Removing the dam will return a healthy flow to the creek and reveal wetlands hidden below the unnaturally high lake. So, the next time we experience heavy rains, wetlands will serve as critical buffers and protect the creek and its inhabitants from additional runoff.
 

Special thanks to the following partners for making this project possible:

 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
GTB NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Little Manistee Watershed Conservation Council
Patagonia, Inc.
Trout & Salmon Foundation
Michigan Fly Fishing Club
Dale & Lisa Pominville and Syers Lake neighboring landowners
Federation of Fly Fishers – Great Lakes Council
Federation of Fly Fishers – International
The George Fund
DTE Energy Foundation

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Conservation Resource Alliance

Bayview Professional Centre
10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 1180
Traverse City, MI 49684
231-946-6817

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