Reed City targets dam for removal

Council seeking grants for funding assistance

REED CITY — The removal of a dam sitting in the Hersey River is one of the current focus points for members of the Reed City Council, as it has become a hazardous structure over time.

The dam was constructed before 1878 behind what is now the Reed City Moose Lodge on Roth Street. According to documents acquired by the city, it appears to have been used as a hydroelectric dam by Morris & Martin water power before the city purchased the dam and surrounding land through multiple transactions in 1921 and 1954 for $32,900. Through the decades, natural causes have taken its toll on the dam and caused decay.

Now, the collapsed, rusted structure is a hazard for trespassers and people using the river for recreation. Members of the Reed City Area Recreation Authority presented the concern to members of the Reed City Council last fall.

"They felt this was a hazard to the public, and that rang the bells," said Reed City Manager Ron Howell. "At that point, we felt we had to do something."

Although at the time the city had no room for the project in its budget, city employees were asked by council members to remove pieces of the dam from the river and surrounding area. Still, reinforcing bar juts out from the concrete base, a large metal sheet is in the river itself and the location of the dam itself is dangerous for river users, as it sits around a bend in the river.

Reed City Police Chief Chuck Davis occasionally deals with property trespassers and considers the dam considerably dangerous.

"We'll get some calls that there are kids out there, and the issue is there is a sign posted to stay off the property," Davis said. "On several occasions we'll get calls and sometimes the kids apologize and leave, but other times they run. It can be dangerous."

He believes the metal debris in the river and on the bank is more important than the removal of the concrete sides of the structure.

"If people are in the river using it to swim, canoe or kayak, we don't have to worry about them getting their leg cut or something to that nature," Davis added. "It is a hazard."

Brian Rice, an environmental group manager for engineering firm Fleis and Vandenbrink in Grand Rapids, has been providing insight to the Reed City Council regarding the dam and advising them about grant opportunities that could help fund a removal project. The project has an estimated cost of about $256,000.

Of the $256,000 project, $56,000, or just more than 25 percent, would be a local match. Rice planned the local match to come from $30,000 in direct funds — $10,000 from Reed City, $10,000 from Lincoln Township and $10,000 from Richmond Township (if the townships are willing to participate) — $20,000 from the city in in-kind services, $3,000 from in-kind services from Trout Unlimited and $3,000 from in-kind services from Fleis and Vandenbrink.

The project was picked up by the firm through casual conversation with the Rec Committee regarding the dam, Rice said. Fleis and Vandenbrink have a wide experience assisting with dam and shoreline restorations across the state. Enjoying outdoor recreation himself, Rice had a personal interest in this dam project, and wanted to work with the city on the project to potentially create Reed City's own kayaking "trail."

At a Reed City Council meeting on Aug. 28, council members approved a motion to allow him to submit a pre-application for an Aquatic Habitat Grant and Dam Removal Grant through the state of Michigan. They are similar grants, Rice said, but he hopes at least one will come through for the city. The grants will be scored in points, which are determined by factors including public access, location, the influence of the project on the environment, project management, the aquatic community and more. Rice said another factor to help gain points is if the river is a state-designated natural river, but the Hersey River is not classified as such.

Rice said the state will find Reed City's grant pre-application more attractive if the city includes additional details to the project, such as riverbank restoration, sediment transport and signage providing information of interest and the role dams play on aquatic ecosystems.

If invited to submit a former grant application for either grant, the city will be notified by the end of September. A full application would be due by Wednesday, Nov. 19. Ultimately, the city could receive small amounts of funding from each grant to make up the total or most of the project's cost, Rice said. If a full application is requested, members from Trout Unlimited and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will perform analyses regarding fish traffic and water levels before and after dam removal.

Whether the city receives any funding from the current or future grants, Howell said the city will eventually remove the dam over time as their budget allows.