Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 6, 2012

Violation notice to Traverse City over dam breach

Investigators still searching for cause of damaging breach

TRAVERSE CITY — Investigators searching for a cause of a breach at the Brown Bridge Dam are finally getting a chance this week to inspect a construction device that failed, causing extensive flooding of homes on the Boardman River.

Meanwhile, state environmental regulators notified Traverse City that the Oct. 6 breach at the dam and resulting flooding constituted a violation of a permit issued for removal of the dam. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Water Resources Division issued the violation notice to Traverse City Manager Ben Bifoss Nov. 9.

"The Water Resources Division has determined that the discharge event at the project site caused a significant amount of sediment to be discharged into the Boardman River and its associated wetlands and floodplains," wrote Brian Jankowski, a district supervisor for the MDEQ in Cadillac. "The Water Resources Division is evaluating the extent and significance of damage to natural resources, or the public trust in those natural resources, due to the discharge event."

The breach occurred as construction workers labored to remove the Brown Bridge Dam — one of three scheduled for removal on the river. A device known as a dewatering structure failed, sending a mass of water from the Brown Bridge Pond into the river.

Investigators with the Dam Safety Unit of the MDEQ had to wait until this week to dry out and examine the dewatering structure because the device had to be used again to reroute the river while the dam was removed.

A formal cause of the breach is still pending.

Todd Kalish of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday he and other members of the Boardman River Dams Implementation Team are now working on a formal response to the MDEQ violation notice. It is feasible a fine could be imposed.

Kalish said the response will include a full plan for remediation of any damage to the river.

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