Old dam removal in Michigan

improves water quality

Federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping community in Oakland County, Mich., remove an old dam to improve water, fish habitat and recreational opportunities.


Paint Creek, a tributary of the Clinton River in Southeast Michigan, is one of two remaining coldwater trout streams in Oakland County. The area has undergone tremendous changes over the past several decades. Rapid urbanization has led to sewage and storm water runoff problems. Heavy industry in the area discharged toxic pollutants in area waterways. Heavy metals, PCBs and other pollutants that pose a risk to the health of people and wildlife remain in the mud of many waters to this day. Paint Creek, which rests within the Clinton River Area of Concern, has its own resource challenges. Historically, the creek provided hydropower to a gristmill in Oakland County, leaving behind a dam and a millrace. The dam, approximately five feet tall, blocked all fish that would otherwise swim upstream to spawn, effectively eliminating miles of habitat. The pool above the dam caused further damage – degrading the stream’s quality by allowing years of sediment to accumulate.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of native habitat
  • Blocked stream flow
  • Sediment build up


Trout caught in a net

Trout, like the one pictured here, can be found once again in Paint Creek after the dam was removed. Credit: Aaron Snell.

Results and Accomplishments

Construction is currently scheduled for August and September of 2011, when the creek is at its lowest point and conditions are best for dam removal. Removing the dam will not only open up miles of habitat to fish and other aquatic wildlife, it will improve the quality of the stream, making it more attractive to the community for fishing and other recreation.