BROOKLYN, Mich. — The Brooklyn Dam has sat on the River Raisin since 1939 and once supplied hydroelectricity to run a factory.
Now it’s being targeted for demolition.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources Aquatic Ecologist Chris Freiburger said it’s classified by state Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy as a high hazard dam.
“What that essentially means is that, if a dam were to fail, you have the potential for loss of life and significant infrastructure failure,” he said.
According to the DNR, the owner of the dam wants to remove it because of the liability that comes with it. That’s been more of a concern for the state since the 2020 dam failures along the Tittabawasee and Tabacco Rivers near Midland.
“If the water were to break and flow downstream, what would the consequences be to human life and safety? And, because of the populations downstream of the dam, those will be severe,” DNR Resource Analyst Joe Nohner said.
The River Raisin starts in northern Ohio and runs through the village of Brooklyn. It is unique in Brooklyn because more of the River Raisin drops three feet for every mile but, in Brooklyn it drops almost eight feet per mile.
“Particularly here in Michigan, high gradient stretches of river are not common,” Freiburger said. “Our rivers are pretty flat. In any river system and certainly the case here in Brooklyn, those dams are situated on the highest gradient water, so those are the areas that fish spawn. Once they’re covered by a dam, fish no longer spawn there.”
Demolishing the Brooklyn Dam would reconnect up to 44 miles of upstream habitat to allow migratory fish and other species to pass through.
“The River Raisin has a whole significant number of mussel species and they’re kind of like the canary in the coal mine in that they’re impacted because of the connectivity issues associated with dams,” Freiburger said. “They’re one of the first to show declines and they’re some of the most imperiled species in the world.”
The DNR has received a fisheries habitat grant of $800,000 to pay for the demolition. The total price is estimated to be more than $1 million and they will be looking for other sources of funding.
“This project was identified as a priority by our division,” Nohner said. “Part of the reason is we have got fish and mussel species that are federally and state listed in the area including the orange throat darter, the red side dace, the southern red bellied dace, silver shiner and the Arabian mussel. These are rare species that have special state and federal protections.”
If all goes planned the project will begin next year, but it will take up between five to ten years to demolish the Brooklyn Dam safely.
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