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Oakland Township

Creek dam removal project gets awards

April 24, 2013

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A dam removal project designed to improve fish and habitat conditions in Paint Creek received multiple awards recently.

OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The fish are swimming and a creek habitat has been restored, thanks to the removal of the 173-year-old Paint Creek dam last November.

“We saw immediate results for fish passage,” said Clinton River Watershed Council Executive Director Anne Vaara. “It is a winning project and very unique for this area. It opened up 16 miles of passage for habitat restoration.”

The project is the recent recipient of four awards, including an American Council of Engineering Merit award for Engineering and Surveying Excellence, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Quality of Life Project of the Year and the American Public Works Association Project of the Year.

The CRWC also received a Michigan Department of Natural Resource Partners in Conservation award for the Paint Creek project.

The cost of the dam removal was $725,000, made possible by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The dam was originally built in 1840 to power a grist mill, but by the early 1900s the mill had ceased to operate. The dam no longer served a purpose to the connecting mill race, and today the Paint Creek Cider Mill, on Orion Road, utilizes an aesthetic wheel that is powered by an electric generator.

Vaara said the Paint Creek dam was the No. 1 dam slated for removal by the MDNR, as it was an impediment to fish passage and aquatic organism transport.

“Paint Creek is the last coldwater stream in Southeast Michigan,” Vaara said. Coldwater habitats benefit from an upstream groundwater draw, along with cover and habitat that keep it cool in the summer. “It is important for an urbanized area,” she said.

Civil engineering firm Hubbell, Roth and Clark; the CRWC; and a technical team of stream ecologists designed and engineered the removal of the Paint Creek dam. The awards were presented to Hubbell, Roth and Clark and the CRWC.

Paint Creek is a subwatershed of the Clinton River Watershed and runs from Lake Orion to downtown Rochester. The MDNR stocks Paint Creek with brown trout every year.

“Paint Creek is one of the highest-quality streams in the Lake Erie Management Unit, and the dam removal stream restoration was a high priority for the fisheries division,” said Jim Francis, MDNR fisheries biologist, in a statement.

The Clinton River Watershed covers 760 square miles through Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer and St. Clair counties. More than 1.5 million people live in the 63 watershed communities.

“Successful completion of this project contributes to the delisting of the Clinton River as an area of concern,” Francis said. “In addition to restoring fish passage, this project benefits the ecology of Paint Creek by reconnecting the floodplain and wetlands along the stream, as well as stabilizing the banks to prevent soil erosion.”

About the author

Staff Writer Linda Shepard covers Rochester Hills and Oakland Township for the Rochester Post. Shepard has worked for C & G Newspapers since 1998, graduated from Oakland University and is a past winner of the Michigan Press Association award. Shepard takes an avid interest in Detroit’s history and current rebirth.

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