For nearly eight years, I have been following up on numerous news reports and public comments in the media on the controversial Boardman River Project involving the removal of three dams on the river. On several occasions I have communicated my concerns to various authorities. The Boardman Implementation Team (IT) gave much publicity to the project, highlighting what it perceived to be the benefits in removing the dams. However, many members of the public that included both engineers and laymen, on numerous occasions, wrote to the newspaper disputing and questioning the claims made by the IT.
The project commenced last October aimed at removing the first of the three dams: Brown Bridge Dam. This maneuver was met with controversy when the unexpected failure of the dam caused sudden flooding to over 50 homes. Fortunately there was no loss of life but there was considerable property damage from the resulting flash flood. According to newspaper reports, the project contractor took steps to compensate some of the affected property owners. Also, as revealed by recent news reports (Record-Eagle, May 21) some of the property owners have decided to file action against those responsible, including the City of Traverse City, IT, the Contractor etc., claiming damages for depreciation of their property values, future flooding potential as well as other grievances.
Being a long-term resident of Traverse City with family ties dating back to the 1800s, I am especially interested in the Boardman River’s history and its nature reserves for fishing, bird watching, and photography. Routinely going for hikes on the river with my wife and children, I am well aware of geography of the river. I may not be an expert but as a laymen who cares for the well being of the river and Traverse City, I wonder if those who planned the removal of the three dams have overlooked a critical outcome if the removal proceeds: the potential serious flood danger to the built up area called Logan’s Landing, located on the busy South Airport Road. If the two remaining dams (Boardman and Sabin Dams) are removed, the potential threat for flash flooding of this unprotected valley, including its civic centers and businesses is very real. The quick rising flood waters which will inundate this area will render the main traffic artery known as South Airport impassable, ultimately under water.
The key reason why we need a closer look at this dam issue is because the short and long term effects of removing the dam have not been completely analyzed. Many questions raised by several engineers have not been answered. In addition, news reports following the Brown Bridge dam failure questioned the qualifications and experience of the principal project staff. (Record-Eagle Dec. 12, 2012). It is time to do the right thing by our environment and to learn from past mistakes. Let’s err on the side of making a well informed, safe decision over time as opposed to making a rash decision that may cause irreversible damage. Remember, hindsight is 20/20.
About the author: Timothy Gibbons is vice president of Grand Traverse Conservation Consortium (GTCC), a voluntary watchdog group for the protection of the environment of the Grand Traverse area. He is a self-employed professional artist who has illustrated several books available in the U.S. and overseas.
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