On May 18th, 2023! Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy awarded $3,781,654 to the City of Ypsilanti for the removal of the high-hazard, poor-condition Peninsular Paper Dam. Read more at the link.
For any information on restoration plans, please visit the Huron River Watershed Council page.
Located on the Huron River in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Peninsular Paper Dam is a high hazard dam in poor condition. It was originally constructed in 1867 to provide electrical and mechanical energy for the paper mill at the site. It no longer generates power. The electricity-generating equipment was removed as the grid was modernized and the mill was abandoned.
The City of Ypsilanti owns the dam and is responsible for maintaining it. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (then the Department of Environmental Quality) inspected the dam in 2014 and required the dam be repaired or removed.
Ypsilanti City Council voted to remove the dam in 2019, following the completion of a feasibility study. Since then, the City, with the support of the Huron River Watershed Council, has been working with professional engineering firms to assess the dam, the impoundment, and plan the restoration of the river. Removal of the dam is currently anticipated for 2025 or 2026 but is subject to change. Reports describing the proposed restoration design and sediment management strategies are expected over the coming months.
The 2022 Community Stakeholder Report is available here
Information on how to remove a dam
• The process is very slow and deliberate.
• The impoundment will be dewatered during low flow periods, gently lowering the water level over many weeks.
• Sediment management processes will keep sediment movement downstream to a minimum.
• Managing the sediment will require removing some sediment from the impoundment with heavy equipment while letting small amounts go downstream naturally.
• The original, natural river channel will be restored by uncovering a pilot channel.
• The recovered lands in upland areas will be restored and protected to prevent erosion and maintain the stability of the banks.
Please see the blended alternative for the dam removal. The graphic provided is from Inter-Fluve.
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Removal Status
- 2021-Sediment Study
- Town Hall
- Huron River Watershed Council
The dam was initially constructed in 1867 to provide power for paper manufacturing; it failed in 1918 and was rebuilt in 1920. The Peninsular Paper Company Dam powered a paper mill in Ypsilanti that produced newsprint for Chicago for a century from the 1860s to the 1970s. In the mid-1980s, the Peninsular Paper Company donated the Peninsular Paper Dam and land to the City of Ypsilanti. The City created a park on the land and is now responsible for maintaining the dam.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT PROBLEMS EXIST BECAUSE OF THE DAM?
The City of Ypsilanti is responsible for managing the dam and paying for inspections and repairs.
• Under State law, the dam is not compliant with safety standards. The City is legally obligated to fix it up– or remove it. The cost to repair it is estimated at $807,000.
• Once repaired, there will be ongoing inspection and maintenance costs.
• The aging dam can be hazardous and is a liability for the City if an accident occurs.
• It does not provide power anymore and it would cost far more to fix up the dam to generate electricity again than the revenue it could gain from the newly generated electricity.
In 2019, the Ypsilanti City Council voted to remove the dam. HRWC is supporting the City in planning for the dam removal, the restoration of the river, and the revitalization of Pen Park. More specifically, HRWC is providing technical expertise, advice, assistance with fundraising and funding, and facilitation. All decisions are made by the City.
HRWC’s role is to help make sure the project is safe, and transparent, and improves ecological and public health. HRWC and the City of Ypsilanti are currently administering the process of designing the removal, which includes analyzing the sediment, depth, and shape of the impoundment, and infrastructure that will be affected by the removal. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Habitat Grant Program has provided funding for this effort into October 2022.
Having participated in dozens of dam removal projects in Michigan, yours appears to be as smooth a path to success as anyone can hope to have, especially when the size of the dam and river are considered. We see no fundamentally challenging or limiting impediments or obstacles to removing this dam.
–Dr. Bryan Burroughs, Executive Director, Michigan Trout Unlimited (letter to City of Ypsilanti, Feb. 20, 2019)
In April 2022, the City of Ypsilanti hosted a Town Hall update event. LimnoTech presented findings from their sediment report, and HRWC shared an overview of the restoration process.
In the autumn of 2021, the City led public forums to maintain transparency, convey information, answer questions, and encourage residents to guide the vision for river restoration. An ad hoc committee of volunteers, stakeholders and city officials led this public engagement process. The committee’s meetings are public; agendas, minutes, and links to meetings can be found through the Agenda Center on the City of Ypsilanti’s website under the heading “Pen Dam Public Engagement Committee.”
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Habitat Grant Program has provided funding for this effort into October 2022.
For study reports, plans, and more resources, please visit the Huron River Watershed Council Page.
The following grant proposals have been made available: