Stories indexed with the term ‘embankment’

Drainage Blanket Funded for Barton Dam

Catskill Remedial Contracting Services Inc. will install a “drainage blanket” for the earthen berm adjoining Barton Dam under a contract with the city worth $123,685. Ann Arbor city council action to approve the contract came at its Nov. 7, 2013 meeting.

A drainage blanket is a pervious but stable layer of material installed directly at the base of a structure to facilitate drainage. The installation is meant to repair a “boil” that has surfaced in the drainage ditch at the base of the right embankment at the dam. The boil has been identified as a potential cause of failure for the embankment by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – which is responsible for regulating the dam, because the dam generates … [Full Story]

PAC Recommends Argo Dam Bypass

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (Oct. 19, 2010): Though the proposal facing park advisory commissioners wasn’t directly related to the question of whether to keep or remove Argo Dam, PAC heard from nearly a dozen people during public commentary who aired their views on that topic.

John Lawter, Dave Barrett

Dave Barrett, right, talks with fellow park advisory commissioner John Lawter prior to the start of PAC’s Oct. 19 meeting. Barrett represented PAC on a selection committee that recommended reconstruction of the Argo Dam headrace and embankment. (Photos by the writer.)

The resolution that PAC ultimately approved was a recommendation to build a bypass channel in the Argo Dam headrace for $988,170, and to add whitewater features for an additional $180,000. The $1,168,170 project would be designed by Gary Lacy of Boulder, Colo., and built by TSP Environmental, a Livonia firm.

City staff said this was the only proposal submitted that met the requirements laid out in the city’s request for proposals (RFP). The plan calls for removing the canoe portage, replacing it with a series of “drop pools” so that no portage is required. The project will also improve accessibility of the path – which is part of Washtenaw County’s Border-to-Border trail – and address problems in the headrace embankment that were identified by state officials. The work is tied to a consent agreement that the city reached with the state in May, laying out steps that the city must take to deal with some long-outstanding structural issues.

Commissioner Tim Berla voted against the resolution, calling it a “protest vote” because removal of Argo Dam hadn’t been considered as an option – that same point was made by several speakers during public commentary. Park staff has indicated that this project doesn’t preclude removing Argo Dam in the future, if that’s a decision that the community makes.

Funding for the project is available from the city’s Parks Rehabilitation & Development millage and the drinking water fund, according to city staff. An additional $50,000 might be available from the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission, to help pay for a portion of the project related to the county’s Border-to-Border trail.

Several people – both commissioners and speakers during public commentary – questioned the appropriateness of using the water fund for this purpose, saying that Argo dam has nothing to do with drinking water. Local attorney Scott Munzel argued that using the water fund to pay for dam-related projects might be illegal, based on case law, because it’s being used as a way to skirt the Headlee Amendment. Munzel is a board member of the Huron River Watershed Council, which has lobbied vigorously to remove the dam for environmental reasons.

The proposal for reconstruction of the headrace and embankment will now be forwarded to city council.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, PAC members heard an update from parks staff about this season’s activities at the city’s three outdoor public pools – at Buhr, Fuller and Veterans Memorial parks. The former supervisor for Buhr Park Pool, Gayle LaVictoire, also gave a brief presentation to commissioners about her new job as volunteer outreach coordinator for the parks system, a newly created position.

And at the end of the meeting, Colin Smith, manager of parks and recreation, announced that the Ann Arbor Senior Center received more residents’ votes than other city facilities in a recent contest sponsored by Stonyfield Farm, and will receive $15,000 from that firm. [Full Story]

City, MDEQ Agree: Argo Headrace Shut

Argo Dam headrace closure

Argo Dam headrace closure. Without the metal plate, water would flow from left to right (bottom to top) in the photograph. The greenish metal plate is wedged into the concrete slot in shim-like fashion. The slot continues along to the bottom of the channel. (Photo by the writer).

The city of Ann Arbor and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have moved towards resolving a dispute about what needs to be done to address problems with the earthen embankment next to Argo Dam. Late this summer, the MDEQ had issued an order to the city to close off the flow to the headrace and dewater it by Nov. 1. That order was based on concerns about the structural integrity of the earthen berm dating back several years.

The city had retained the law firm Bodman, LLP on the matter, and filed a contested case with the MDEQ, asking for a 90-day stay on the MDEQ’s order, which includes a stoppage of flow in the headrace, and its dewatering.

The order also includes other points, among them a need for the city to make a decision on the dam-in/dam-out question. Whether to keep Argo Dam in place or remove it has been the focus of community-wide conversation on that topic, which has taken place with great intensity over the last nine months, but which has a years-long history.

The MDEQ agreed to the city’s request for a stay on all elements of its order except for shutting the water flow to the headrace. The city has now complied with the MDEQ’s order to close the headrace. [Full Story]

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]