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Removal of the Big Rapids Dam Remnant: An Environmental Assessment
Environmental Management Studies Center Ferris State University
Date Created and/or Issued
Contributing Institution
UC Riverside, Library, Water Resources Collections and Archives
Clearinghouse for Dam Removal Information (CDRI)
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Scope/Content: Abstract: Executive Summary During Summer 2000, Ferris State University Environmental Management Studies Center (FSUEMSC) students performed an environmental assessment of the Big Rapids Dam remnant area to identify what effects the dam remnant removal will have on the Muskegon River. An attempt to remove the Big Rapids Hydroelectric Dam in 1966 left a four-foot high remnant in the Muskegon River. Due to unsafe river conditions and the disruption of natural habitat, the city of Big Rapids decided to remove the dam remnant. The dam remnant is located in the NW . of Section 11, T 15 N, R 10 W, City of Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan. The study area included the reach of the river from White's Bridge, 1.75 miles above the dam remnant to St. Paul's Campus Parish, 2.25 miles below the dam remnant. Research groups included physiography, water quality, and natural history. Each group collected data through field observations, library research, personal interviews, photography, field sampling, and laboratory analysis. There are six predominant soil types found in the dam remnant study area. The average annual temperature and precipitation of the area is 45.2°F (7.3°C) and 32.32 inches, respectively. The Muskegon River area watershed incorporates over 2,350 square miles of land, is 212 miles long, and has a drop in elevation of 575 feet from its source to the mouth of the river. The physiography of the area is expected to change with the increase of the river flow velocity, aesthetics, and the change in the elevation of the water level. The overall water quality of this reach of the river meets the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) surface water quality standards. The condition of the river has improved since 1991 and there had been no apparent changes in the water quality due to the dam remnant removal during the study period. The river ecology, past and present river conditions, and species of flora and fauna that can be found within the study area were documented. An aquatic insect survey was conducted to determine counts and species of insects found near the dam remnant site, but because of small sample size the data was inconclusive. The removal of the dam remnant will have many effects on the river. These effects include: - Increase in stream gradient to a slope of over 10 ft/mile - Release of water impounded behind the dam - Widening of the river banks, exposing additional land to terrestrial plant growth - Colder water temperatures and higher dissolved oxygen levels - Removal of the physical barrier to the migration of fish and invertebrates upstream and downstream - Increase in species diversity and fish and invertebrate biomass due to habitat improvement - Return of the reach of the river between Reedsburg Dam and Rogers Dam to a cold water ecosystem
Scope/Content: Dam type: crib
Scope/Content: Dam type: stone
Scope/Content: Dam type: timber
Scope/Content: Height: 4.4 feet. Length: 250 feet.
Scope/Content: Date constructed: 1880. Date removed: 1996 & 2000.
Alternative analysis (e.g., feasibility studies, EIRs)
Dam retirement
Muskegon River, MI
Big Rapids Dam

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