The Boardman River watershed encompasses 291 square miles and flows 179 miles from its origin in Kalkaska County to West Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City.
Last Wednesday, the process of removing three no longer used hydro-electric dams from the Boardman began at Brown Bridge Dam. The removal of the three Boardman River dams (Brown Bridge, Sabin & Boarman) will be the largest dam removal project in Michigan’s history, and the largest wetlands restoration in the Great Lakes Basin. It will allow the Boardman to return to a more natural state as a free-flowing, cold-water river. The Boardman River website explains that:
The Boardman River played a vital role in the economic growth of the region as it was cleared of debris in order to drive logs downriver to the mills. This process fueled a growing city but was devastating to the river’s aquatic habitat, contributing to the extirpation of Michigan Grayling in the river. After the logging era, several dams were constructed to provide power for the growing needs of Traverse City. These hydroelectric dams originally supplied a large percentage of the city’s electrical needs, but this declined over time. Before being decommissioned in 2005, these dams only provided 3.4% of the power used by Traverse City Light & Power customers each year.
Also listen to a feature on IPR News Radio. We’ll take you out with a cool video about the dam removals produced for The Grand Vision Natural Resource Network by Miles Chisholm of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The video includes some great old photos of activity on the river.