Stories indexed with the term ‘Argo Dam’

MDEQ to Ann Arbor: Close Argo Millrace

Likely point of closure for the headrace (millrace) at Argo Dam.

Likely point of closure for the millrace (also known as the headrace or canal) at Argo Dam. (Photo by the writer.)

As part of an intro to an interview with the chair of the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission, Scott Rosencrans, which The Chronicle published on Aug. 25, we reported that a letter from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had been sent to the city of Ann Arbor. The MDEQ letter included an order to close the millrace at Argo Dam.

The communication from the state agency didn’t come out of the blue – it was a reply to a request sent to MDEQ by the city of Ann Arbor asking for an extension to a July 31, 2009 deadline for action on Argo Dam.

With the text of both letters now available, we take a look at those communications, after briefly considering some historical context. That context dates back to a 2004 letter from the MDEQ about toe drains in the earthen berm next to the dam, and includes formation of a study committee, a public engagement process that extended over most of the first half of this year, recommendations from the city’s Park Advisory Commission and Environmental Commission, and a city council work session.

A key date from the most recent MDEQ letter is Nov. 1, 2009, by which time it has ordered the city of Ann Arbor to close off and drain the millrace. But it leaves both the dam-in and dam-out options available to the city. On a dam-in scenario, the MDEQ wants the toe drains in the earthen berm repaired by Dec. 31, 2010. On a dam-out scenario, the MDEQ wants the removal completed by December 2012. Either way, the city is supposed to have its study of options completed by April 30, 2010.

Based on a Tuesday phone conversation with Matt Naud, the city’s environmental coordinator, one possible timeline for next steps would have the city council conducting a mid-September work session on the topic, with clear direction coming at the council’s second meeting in September. Whatever that direction from council is, said Naud, it’s going to start costing money to implement the next steps – on the order of five-figure dollar amounts at least. [Full Story]

Talk with Rosencrans: Dams, Movies, Jobs


To address excessive creaking, a recommendation from Rosencrans (a carpenter) was to level up the totter's base – a suggestion already implemented. (Photo by the writer.)

[Editor's Note: HD, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is also publisher of an online series of interviews on a teeter totter. Introductions to new Teeter Talks appear on The Chronicle.]

In recent coverage of the Park Advisory Commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle reported that Scott Rosencrans had just been elected chair by his colleagues on that body.

So despite the fact that he did not prevail in the recent city council Democratic primary election in Ward 5, Rosencrans will continue to serve the Ann Arbor community – by chairing  PAC. Among the topics we discussed on the totter was Argo Dam, which was a campaign issue that might have affected how Ward 5 residents voted. Incumbent Mike Anglin was against removing the dam, while Rosencrans supported its removal if the rowing community could be accommodated. Rowers make heavy use of Argo Pond. [See additional Chronicle dam coverage.]

Back in 2004, the  Michigan Department of Environmental Quality alerted the city of Ann Arbor to problems related to the earthen berm to the east of the dam. That berm separates the mill race – used by canoists to reach a portage around the dam – from the river. A task force and study lasting at least two years culminated in a months-long community dialogue on the future of the dam earlier this year. The city council has made no decision on a dam-in or dam-out solution.

The city recently sent a letter to the MDEQ asking for another extension in the deadline for a decision on how to address problems with the dam’s toe drains. And Byron Lane, chief of the dam safety program with the MDEQ, has sent a response. [Full Story]

Huron River of Data

Big orange buoy floating next to small yellow buoy on Argo Pond in Ann Arbor Michigan

Graph of Huron River water levels on June 18, 2009 when the dam gates were opened. Late on June 19, it started raining hard. (Image links to higher resolution graph. )

Back in mid-June, Paul Christensen, who’s president of the Huron River Fly Fishing Club, gave us a heads up that some fishermen plying their craft in the waters downstream from Argo Dam – himself included – had been surprised the previous morning by a rapid rise then fall of the water levels.

Real time data on river levels and flow rates is available online from the U.S. Geological Survey website, along with archived data and a charting tool. That allowed us to get a visual snapshot of the event as measured by the gauge.

We later headed off to the dam to get a closeup view of the dam’s gates – the incident had been caused by an opening and closing of those gates. But before photographing the gates, we swung by the NEW Center, where the Huron River Watershed Council offices are located, just upstream from the dam. There we touched base with Laura Rubin, executive director of HRWC, to see what she knew about the event.

In the course of that conversation, Rubin suggested that when we went down to take our photos, we look for a new yellow buoy among the familiar line of orange buoys just in front of the dam. More on what the yellow buoy is for, plus an explanation of the gate opening-and-closing event, after the break. We’ll also give an update on where things stand with the future of Argo Dam. [Full Story]

Dam Questions Dominate Caucus

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (June 14, 2009): At least 20 people attended the Ann Arbor city council’s Sunday night caucus to provide arguments for keeping the Argo Dam in place. The city council will have a work session on the topic starting at 6 p.m. tonight, before its regularly scheduled meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

Other topics addressed to the councilmembers who attended caucus included the status of the East Stadium bridge repair, the proposed installation of parking meters in residential areas near the downtown area, and foliage obscuring sight lines along Glazier Way.  The allocation of $75,000 to SPARK, which is on the agenda for Monday, received some discussion in response to a query from The Chronicle.

The three councilmembers remaining at the caucus at its conclusion (Sabra Briere, Mike Anglin and John Hieftje) had little to discuss as far as formulation of questions among themselves. Briere briefly mentioned to Hieftje that she’d had some conversations with councilmembers who were interested in exploring some revisions to council rules – to address emailing policies, among other things. [Full Story]

Hydropower at Argo Dam?

Members of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission look at a hybrid plug-in Ford Escape after their Tuesday evening meeting.

After their Tuesday evening meeting, members of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission checked out a hybrid plug-in Ford Escape parked outside the county administration building on North Main. From left: Fulter Hong, Charles Hookham, Bill Verge, David Wright, Mike Delaney and Jason Bing. The car was brought by Delaney, who works for DTE Energy Ventures in Ann Arbor.

At the start of last Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission, Bill Verge commented that for the first time since he’s been on the commission, people in the audience outnumbered commissioners. “I’m quite happy about that,” he said.

The reason for the interest? Argo Dam.

The dam has been at the center of a heated debate over whether to repair it or remove it completely – the latter option would result in the elimination of Argo Pond. The city’s Park Advisory Commission and Environmental Commission have both weighed in with recommendations to city council, the body that will ultimately decide the dam’s future.

Because Argo Dam has the potential to generate electricity, as Barton and Superior dams already do, the Energy Commission decided to look at the issue, too. Nearly a dozen people showed up on Tuesday night to see what the commission would recommend. (As soon as the commission finished with that segment of its meeting, all but a couple of people in the audience departed.) [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council to Vote on City Place

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (May 31, 2009): At its caucus held last night, the topic of the City Place site plan dominated discussion, with indications that the “by right” proposal will be approved on Monday.

Site plans available for inspection at city hall in Ann Arbor.

However, Scott Munzel, the attorney for Alex de Parry’s 24-unit proposal for Fifth Avenue, expressed disappointment that the project had become a “battle to the death.” He was alluding in part to a letter that council had received asking it to return the project to planning commission to be re-heard and re-voted on by that body, because of a technical violation of rules concerning the public accessibility of drawings in advance of public hearings.

The Chronicle used the occasion of Sunday caucus to pose questions to councilmembers on a range of other topics besides City Place, including the availability of the analyses regarding alternatives to the police early-retirement incentives, the openness of the budget and labor committee’s meetings, the possible re-appointment of Rene Greff to the board of the Downtown Development Authority, and a recent arrest of a citizen for carrying a handgun openly. [Full Story]

City Council To Weigh Mixed Advice on Dam

David Stead, right, reads a resolution he proposed at Thursday nights Environmental Commission. The resolution, which was approved, recommends removing Argo Dam.

David Stead, right, reads a resolution he proposed at Thursday night's Environmental Commission meeting. The resolution, which was approved, recommends removing Argo Dam. At left is Margie Teall, a city councilmember who also sits on the Environmental Commission.

At its Thursday night meeting, the Ann Arbor Environmental Commission approved a resolution recommending that the city initiate removal of Argo Dam. It is the opposite advice given by the city’s Park Advisory Commission, which last week on a 5-4 vote recommended keeping the dam. City council will make the final decision, which is expected within the next two months.

At last week’s Park Advisory Commission meeting, 15 people spoke during the public comment period. Supporters of keeping the dam – many of them from local rowing clubs – outnumbered those in favor of removing it. The same number of people spoke at Thursday’s Environmental Commission meeting, but only six of the 15 speakers were in favor of keeping the dam. One of them, Sarah Rampton, explained that most rowers were out of town at a rowing competition in Canada. She said she had stayed behind, missing her daughter’s last regatta, because she felt she needed to advocate for keeping the dam.

But after an hour of public comment and more than two hours of debate, commissioners voted 8-4 to recommend removal of the dam, primarily citing environmental benefits of a free-flowing Huron River. [Full Story]

Park Advisory Commission: Argo Dam Stays

After hearing residents passionately argue both sides of the issue at its Tuesday meeting, the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission voted 5 to 4 to recommend keeping Argo Dam in place.

The question of whether to remove or repair the dam has been debated for more than three years, with several hearings and public meetings. Now, the issue could be decided within the next month or so. The city’s Environmental Commission is expected to vote on its own recommendation at its May 28 meeting, with Ann Arbor’s city council ultimately deciding the issue, perhaps as early as June. [Full Story]

Not So Gently Down The Stream

Matt Naud, environmental coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor, gives the non-verbal equivalent of

Matt Naud, environmental coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor, gives the universal gestural sign for Whoah-there-fella, as Steven Yaffee of the UM School of Natural Resources & Environment looks on.

At the first of three public meetings on the future of the Huron River held Wednesday evening at Forsythe Middle School, the Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP) committee’s vision for the Huron River’s future was presented. It reads in part: “The river and its publicly-owned shoreline and riparian areas create a blue and green corridor across the city that contains restored natural areas and adequate, well-sited public trails and access.”

It was that sentence that prompted the first whispered interactions between The Chronicle and other folks at our table: What, exactly, does “riparian” mean? Russ Miller, a rower who’s now hooked on the sport after taking it up only a couple of years ago, had a notion that it had to do with the place where the water meets the shore, but it was his PALM handheld computing device that provided a definitive answer: interface area between land and a stream.

The Forsythe meeting itself could fairly be described as an interface between two groups as different as land and water: people keen to see Argo Dam preserved, and those who wouldn’t mind seeing it disappear. [Full Story]