Controlled Dam Removal:
Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t: should Pellston remove its historic dam?
The Little Traverse Conservancy has just acquired the Maple River Dam and Lake Kathleen, and must decide whether to retain the dam as part of a new nature preserve.
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In Pellston, Michigan, the Maple River Dam has existed for more than 100 years. After a long history of dam breaks, attempted repairs, and subsequent lack of maintenance and monitoring, the Maple River Dam may no longer serve the Pellston community effectively. Conservation groups, local residents, Native American tribes, and others are making the case that removing the dam as soon as possible will prevent a dam break that could cause irreparable damage to the surrounding habitats and watersheds. Other stakeholders argue that removing the dam, which would result in the elimination of Lake Kathleen, would devastate endangered plant species that lie below the dam, would create a pathway for invasive species, and would deprive Pellstonites of a treasured recreational resource. Multiple parties are in conflict over the prospect of a dam removal, but Taylor James, the Land Protection and Stewardship Coordinator of Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC), must decide the dam’s future. In doing so, Taylor has to consider the differing opinions among stakeholders and ensure the best decision is made for the local community and the Lake Kathleen–Maple River ecosystem.