By ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — Brown Bridge Dam removal is the first step in what's billed as the largest watershed restoration project in Michigan's history.
The goal is to restore much of the of the Boardman River to its natural state by removing a series of dams that were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. State, federal and local authorities all have a hand in the project, and it's expected to cost several million dollars
Here's a look at some key dates:
1922: Brown Bridge Dam opened and began hydroelectric generation. It's one of several dams built on the river since the 19th century.
2005: The dam was decommissioned and hydroelectric generation stopped.
2008: A multi-year public study by the Boardman River Dams Committee wrapped. The committee recommended removal of Brown Bridge, Sabin and Boardman dams and modifications of Union Street dam in Traverse City. Brown Bridge and Union Street dams are owned by the city, while Grand Traverse County owns Sabin and Boardman.
2009: Grand Traverse County and Traverse City officials approved plans that followed the committee's recommendations. Brown Bridge, which is farthest upstream, was selected to be removed first.
September 2011: Crews began to lower the level of Brown Bridge Pond. The draw down was intended to reduce water levels to as low as possible without any physical deconstruction of the dam.
August 2012: Dam deconstruction begins. The powerhouse structure was removed, and thousands of tons of sediment accumulated around the dam were targeted for removal.
October 2012: Draining of Brown Bridge Pond was scheduled to begin on Friday or Saturday, Oct. 5 or 6. A state permit restricted water release to a foot of pond water daily. Water on Saturday began rushing into the river as crews prepared a temporary sheet piling channel to allow for the slow draining of the pond, which contained 22 feet of water. For reasons that remained unclear late Saturday, pond water rushed under or around the structure into the river.