Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 11, 2012

Boardman's health, fish populations examined

TRAVERSE CITY - The Boardman River dam removal project was always meant to improve the long-term health of the river.

And, if you go see the river now above the old Brown Bridge Dam, she certainly looks strong.

The river flows through her original path now. She rolls and turns over gravel and sand, through S-shaped embankments lined with tree stumps and woody debris, meandering through brown mud plains and a glorious, tree-lined valley. When the vegetation comes back to hood the mud where the Brown Bridge pond used to be, the Boardman River above the dam appears on track to be a place that would make Walt Whitman proud.

But what about the health of the river below the site of the dam? Was the river forever harmed by the remarkable events of Oct. 6, when a breach during the dam's removal sent the 191-acre Brown Bridge pond cascading into the river?

The results of preliminary tests by scientists so far are at least encouraging.

Todd Kalish of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said early tests on the river a week after the flooding consisted of both water chemistry evaluations and fish surveys. Results for arsenic, ph, dissolved oxygen and temperatures showed all were at acceptable levels or better.

"Based on the water quality samples, it doesn't appear there was any contamination," Kalish said.

However, tests of the river for cloudiness, or "total suspended solids," showed elevated measures.

"It's basically silt, fine material, within the water," Kalish said.

The cloudiness should dissipate with the wrapping up of the project in mid-December, he said. Work on sand collectors and river banks contribute to the cloudiness, and river systems occasionally see elevated levels of cloudiness due to natural events.

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