Removal of Boardman Dams Has Negative Environmental and Energy Impacts

The road to hell is paved with the shells from proverbial eggs broken in the service of producing an idealized omelet. In the case of Grand Traverse County, enough eggs are being broken to warrant the attention of the folks at the Guinness Book of World Records.

In the first of two videos dedicated to plans to remove three of four dams on the Boardman River to increase tourism and recreational opportunities, the Property Rights Network showed how a water drawdown impacted residents living on the impoundments. The second video, below, details the consequences of dam removal on the delicate ecosystems that have developed since the dams were built more than a century ago, as well as how decommissioning the dams makes little sense in terms of generating clean, renewable, inexpensive and reliable hydroelectric power.

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Thus far, more than 34 dedicated acres of the Grand Traverse County Educational Reserve have suffered the indignity of the seven-foot drawdown of waters between the dams with no attempts whatsoever by Traverse City or Grand Traverse County to mitigate the loss of wildlife habitat. Additionally, neither the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality nor Department of Natural Resources has demanded or enforced any mitigation.

Property Rights Network Director Russ Harding explains in the video that the desire to restore the Boardman River watershed to its pre-settlement condition is foolhardy as the river was more than probably blocked by beaver dams and fallen trees prior to the dams' construction in the 19th century. Since the dams were built, Harding adds, the dam impoundments slow down sediments from the river and serve as filters for possible contaminants that the river might carry.

The loss of renewable and reliable hydroelectricity wrought by decommissioning of the dams in preparation for their removal also is addressed in the video. Harding estimates that nearly $2 million of revenue has been lost already from this natural power resource, and that 12 wind turbines at a cost of $1 million each would be required to replace the energy potential of the dams.

William Stockhausen, president of Elk Rapids Hydroelectric Power LLC, also acknowledges the value the dams present for power generation. "As they are, the dams are basically structurally sound and, therefore, with the hydro, have much intrinsic value," he says. "It is surprising that the dams were decommissioned in the first place. It is like giving away the city's and county's crown jewels."