CADILLAC — The area around the Reedsburg Dam State Forest Campground will look and sound a little different for the next couple of years.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has applied to the Department of Environmental Quality for a permit that will allow the DNR to drawdown the flooding starting in August.
The DNR plans to repair the dam.
“Any structure that people build requires maintenance,‘ said Vern Richardson, a wildlife biologist out of the DNR office in Cadillac.
“On a building, it’s easy because everything is exposed,‘ Richardson said.
Repairing a dam, however, means crews must take an extra step.
“But on a flooding, when you shut down for business, it means you have to remove the water,‘ Richardson said.
If the DEQ approves the permit, visitors to the campground, which is near the south end of the Reedsburg Flooding (labeled as the Dead Stream Flooding on Google Maps), will notice some additional noise and construction while the work is being done. Dead Stream Swamp, which is at a higher elevation than the Reedsburg Flooding, will not be impacted.
The campground, however, will stay open even as the flooding is drained of water, according to Richardson. A parking area adjacent to the dam will be closed to campers because the DNR will use it to stage equipment. Richardson was not sure at what point that would happen, however. A walkway across the dam will close during the construction phase, and there may be some noise. The campground will otherwise be fully functional during the project, he said.
The water in the flooding, however, will be mostly gone about a month after the drawdown begins. The Muskegon River will continue to flow through the area, but the lake will be gone; Richardson estimated that, if the project starts in August of 2018, the flooding will be back underwater by summer of 2019 and by summer of 2020, it will be a lake again.
“Only it will still be there in 20 years because (the dam) won’t have failed,‘ Richardson said.
Wildlife will benefit from the drawdown, Richardson indicated. Habitat on the edges of the flooding will do better for a few years because of the drawdown, he said.
“Drawdowns expose moist soils that otherwise don’t see sunlight, and that creates ideal conditions for dormant seed banks to germinate and increase wetland plant diversity,‘ said Keith Fisher, another wildlife biologist involved with the project, according to a news release.“Like a chain reaction, better plant diversity attracts a more diverse insect community, and then an increasingly wide variety of wildlife species.‘
“Freshly exposed mud flats are a magnet for shorebirds, too, and that provides incredible opportunities for bird watchers to see many different species in one area,‘ Fisher said.
Unlike a much smaller dike in northern Missaukee County that is being removed, the Reedsburg Dam, which is at the south end of the Reedsburg Flooding near Houghton Lake, is being repaired.
A 2016 evaluation of the dam showed it to be in fairly good shape, according to a DNR news release. But some things needed fixing.
The DNR is prioritizing restoring the earthen dike adjacent to the dam, repairing concrete and steel components and replacing “stoplogs,‘ which are the hydraulic engineering elements that control water levels. They’ll also repair the stoplog mechanism, which the DNR describes as having been in disrepair for years.
It’s expected that the DEQ will approve the permit because the two agencies have been in communication about the project, Richardson said.
After the drawdown in August, construction is expected to start this fall and last until spring 2019.