Twenty years ago, Amy Beyer began compiling an inventory of dams and road-stream crossings as part of her job with Resource Conservation Alliance in Traverse City, Mi.
Today she runs the organization, which has become a national leader in removing small dams and replacing culverts that disrupt stream flow and block fish passage.
“When I started doing this I wondered how we would ever get all of these projects done. Now we’re taking out these dams and replacing culverts like never before,” Beyer said during a session at the 8th annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Cleveland.
Beyer and Lisha Ramsdell, program director at Huron Pinesin northeast Michigan, said there are hundreds of obsolete dams and outdated culverts in the blue ribbon trout streams that crisscross northern Michigan.
Their agencies work to reconnect free-flowing streams to the Great Lakes. Removing dams, culverts and other barriers improves fish habitat, water quality and can stimulate the local economy.
Ramsdell said her agency identified 217 barriers (small dams, lake level control structures, road crossings and culverts) that affected stream flow in just one Michigan river system — the Rifle River.
Obsolete dams, road crossings and culverts that disrupt natural stream flow and block fish passage are a major problem across the Great Lakes, said Patrick Doran, Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy’s Michigan chapter.
Doran said new research has identified 276,000 dams, road crossings and culverts that may be blocking fish passage, disrupting natural stream flows and warming water temperatures in the eight states on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes.
In other words, a huge problem that could cost billions of dollars to remedy.