TRAVERSE CITY — No significant environmental impact will occur if Boardman and Sabin dams are removed from the Boardman River, said federal officials who effectively cleared the way for a sweeping dam removal project to become eligible for up to $10 million in federal funds.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week released a draft environmental assessment and project report of a proposed dam removal project. Corps officials concluded that removal of the two dams owned by Grand Traverse County would not cause significant cumulative or long-term adverse environmental results.
The reports won't be finalized until after consideration of public comments received through Aug. 15.
"If it's approved and there's funding, there could be up to $10 million available through the Corp of Engineers to help remove those dams," said Grand Traverse County Administrator Dave Benda. "That would be a pretty significant amount of money."
The Corps' study considered three alternatives: no action; removal of just the Sabin Dam, and removal of both Sabin and Boardman dams, with modifications to Union Street Dam to assist fish passage. The report's authors acknowledged dam removal would negatively affect wetlands and warm water fish habitat created by dam impoundments, but found them "insignificant" when balanced against benefits gained by restoring the river's natural cold water habitat.
But one project critic said the environmental -- and psychological -- damage is already done.
"The impact has already happened, there's nothing left," said Bruce Carpenter, who resides on what's known as Keystone Pond behind the Boardman Dam. "The impact of what they have done with the draw down of the ponds has destroyed the ecology of these ponds. I can't bear to even look at the river anymore.
"It's a huge change, but what can I do," he said.