You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 7:36 a.m.

Ann Arbor City Council delays decision on Argo Dam's fate

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor City Council - missing four of its 11 members - held off tonight on voting on a resolution to repair Argo Dam and save Argo Pond.

Nonetheless, several citizens took to the podium at the start of the meeting to give their input on the issue that's divided the community into two sides - "dam-in" and "dam-out." - in recent months


Supporters of keeping Argo Dam and Argo Pond, namely the rowing community, showed up en masse for tonight's meeting.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"It's time to end this divisive debate," said Tony Iannone, president of the Huron Rowing Association, a major proponent of keeping the dam intact to preserve the rowing activities that occur at Argo Pond.

There was a consensus from both sides tonight that the Argo Dam issue has dragged on far too long. The city has been aware of the state's concerns with the condition of Argo Dam for the last nine years, but has not yet addressed them all.

Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward, one of the three sponsors of tonight's legislation, said the resolution was proposed in an attempt to be proactive about addressing the infrastructure needs of the dam. He noted the city is still in dispute with the state Department of Environmental Quality over the issue.

City Attorney Stephen Postema said the city is contesting the DEQ's recent order to take action on Argo Dam. The DEQ gave the city a range of deadlines to either repair or remove the dam altogether to address safety concerns.

"It's a contested matter that's in an administrative hearing up in Lansing. It is not a court case," Postema said, adding that there's no timeline for when the matter will be settled.

Absent from tonight's meeting were Mayor John Hieftje and council members Marcia Higgins, Margie Teall and Tony Derezinski.

Council Member Leigh Greden, D-3rd Ward, served as acting mayor. He spoke just before the council voted 7-0 to table the Argo Dam resolution. 

Greden said he thinks the late addition of the issue to the agenda Friday was mishandled by its sponsors.

"We dragged a lot of people out here tonight for this motion. It's now 9:35 p.m. and they've sat through this meeting for two and a half hours," he said. "I don't think we should keep dragging the public back here over and over again."

Council members discussed postponing the issue until Dec. 7, but ultimately decided to table the issue indefinitely until a clear resolution could be drafted.

Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, said tabling the resolution was the right choice.

"I think it's pretty clear that this resolution came extremely late in the process. Many of us didn't even know it was around until Saturday," he said, adding it also didn't communicate a clear message.

Council members said they fielded hundreds of e-mails from the public over the weekend about Argo Dam with various concerns. Many of those concerns were heard during the public comment period of tonight's meeting.

"It's time. Enough is enough," said Susan Washabaugh, a teacher at Pioneer High School, who told city officials it was time for swift action to make the necessary repairs to the dam.

Jeff DeBoer, president of the Pioneer Rowing Club, said there's more than enough information to make a reasoned judgment to save the dam. He said removing Argo Dam would be an "extreme and irresponsible action."

Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council and a member of Friends Of Restoring The Huron, urged the council to remove the dam and restore the river. She presented documentation showing the removal would open up six miles of free-flowing river and provide 20 acres of floodplain to store water and prevent downstream flooding, while also filtering out pollutants.

Rubin also told city officials the restoration would improve the number and diversity of fish and aquatic habitat by lowering water temperatures, improving oxygen levels in the water, and decreasing evaporation loss.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 6:54 p.m.

Flow rates below the Argo dam are ridiculous. They vary by over an entire order of magnitude! Check it out for yourself: The gauge depth can vary by over 2-3 feet sometimes too. Imagine being a river or woodland creature (or even fisherman or other human enthusiast of the river, as has happened) getting caught in such a rapid rise or decline of the river flow and level! This is due to our crappy system of aging, artificial dams. Now compare that data to the natural swells that occur at the now dam-less Dexter mill creek. This is a good time of year to illustrate the issue.,00060


Thu, Oct 22, 2009 : 8:43 a.m.

Having worked with Laura Rubin on many projects, I find the character assassinations and attacks on her integrity disgraceful. There is no stronger advocate for the river environment than Laura, no better voice for the watershed council than Laura. Generally, when one's argument has no meat and no merit, one resorts to name-calling and other childish tactics. I think that is the case here.


Wed, Oct 21, 2009 : 9:12 a.m.

I believe the city council has had adequate time and input to make a decision on this vital issue. Further delays risk putting the city in a legal dispute with the MDEQ and will erode the public support of its elected representatives.

Rork Kuick

Wed, Oct 21, 2009 : 8:59 a.m.

a2mutant: There is no flood protection offered by Argo dam. I don't think there is any thoughtful debate about that. Unstable flow rates below Argo dam are a problem though. Doom and gloom about the Dexter removal: I was not expecting it to be perfect after 1 year. The stream is still recutting the valley. Do come see. It was better when the flowers were blooming. There aren't any trails yet. Doom and gloom about flow rates: Removing the dam will not reduce the flow rates. It's a no-brainer to predict total flow similar to the river below Argo dam, which is popular with boaters. About the money. From "Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan Final April 28, 2009". Insurance and maintenance costs estimated at 37,500 in 2010, to over 50,000 in 2020. 50-60K$ every 5 years, 250000$ in 2012. It sums to 366000 by 2012, about 800,000$ by 2019. That doesn't include any vegetation management. That doesn't count any fix of the immediate problem of the toe drains. It doesn't cost the environmental impacts. That doesn't count that you get to pay for dam removal later anyway and are just renting.


Wed, Oct 21, 2009 : 7:07 a.m.

To clarify once again, the rowing community you and others reference and demand pay the dam maintenance costs are primarily high school students practicing to represent their schools. Local public school kids and families that are are simply fighting to keep a practice field that is close in proximity, as many bike to practice. Argo Pond is located within a city and while I respect your interest in restoring rivers, there are many other areas you can repurpose to meet your goals. It's a beautiful stretch of water that is already being used by so many residents. The simplicity of this issue is being lost in rhetoric and statistics. The HS teams do pay rent and utilities for use of Bandemere Park AND there are many users that take advantage of the waters, the rowers do not have exclusive rights nor demand it. I'm proud to see students show up at city council meetings with signs, their backs are against the wall to potentially lose something that's very important to them. It's my hope you'll give them the same respect you demand.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 10:18 p.m.

Mike- It's no fair to ask rowers to maintain an area without ownership rights. If they want the pond/dam, then sell them the pond/dam, and they can do what they want with it; keep it free, charge for use, whatever they want (so long as their use does not create negative effects downstream). Do you think all the rowers in A2 wouldn't be able to pull a consortium together to purchase Argo? Or that an entrepreneurial individual wouldn't capitalize on that opportunity? The same applies to the ball fields/golf courses/other public sites in Ann Arbor. I'd certainly enjoy having my kids play on my own private soccer field (owned in a consortium). I would pay a lot for exclusive use of the pools. Turn the public assets into club products and then the maintenance/use issues have been internalized.

Michael Psarouthakis

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 8:33 p.m.

Okay two more comments. I think it would be very cool if both sides could get together and find funding to do what Charley Sullivan suggests in his post above. That would be awesome. For now lets fix the berm and then we can figure out how to fund and build a hybrid solution. If rowing is going to assume responsibility for paying the maintenance costs of the dam, I assume current kayakers and canoeists are included in that group and baseball and softball teams will now foot the bill for Vets park and other fields, swimmers for Vets and Fuller Pools, hockey teams for the ice rinks....


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 8:26 p.m.

Huron RIver Paddler: Your quote: "funding opportunities will offset the the burden to tax payers" 1) Last night, just prior to comment and discussion about argo dam, the ann arbor city council heard a 1 hour plea for nearly $200K in emergency funding to provide shelter and services to additional homeless individuals and families through what is predicted to be a severe winter. After that, it was more than a little awkward to discuss the merits of something like the fate of a dam from any perspective. Later in the meeting, council wrestled with how to replace 2 bridges that are falling down (literally) for a cost of $22+ million, which they don't have. In the near future, they will try to figure out how to plug a $1.6 million dollar gap in the current budget due to state cuts and then move on to explore ways to fix an expected multi million dollar hole in next year's budget. 2) The State of Michigan is hemorrhaging red ink and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. State departments are being liquidated, funds to communities in support of basic services are being slashed, career felons are boing turned out on the street, and funding for public education is being slashed -- another $51 million just today. And a balanced budget is still not in sight. 3) The federal deficit has ballooned to a magnitude not seen in 70 years -- nearly $2 trillion -- and is still growing. I wonder where, exactly, are you imagining your predicted "funding opportunities" going to come? Are you suggesting that paying millions to remove a dam and open up 2 miles of river is a greater priority in your values system in the face of these other needs. I would find that hard to believe. The responsible, moral thing to do at this time is to perform the necessary maintenance on the toe drains because, at this time, it is the cheapest thing to do. Leave further discussion of dam in/dam out for another, hopefully sunnier, day. Interestingly, the $185K currently being considered for further study of the issue is almost exactly what is needed to house 50 additional homeless individuals and 10 additional homeless families through the winter. Do you have a position on that?

Michael Psarouthakis

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 8:23 p.m.

HRP, A few more long winded points in response. With the closure of one concrete tube at the opening of the mill race the entire berm issue is eliminated and the berm and dam are no longer a connected issue. I don't think this is a good solution but it is proof that the berm and dam don't have to be linked and that the "dam is failing" statement is misleading. The berm has a maintenance issue that must be addressed. I think the point has been made about that statement and in my opinion it is time to move on. The least expensive solution to the MDEQ issue is to close the mill race and eliminate the water pressure to the berm, which in fact is exactly what the MDEQ has ordered the city to do, the city is contesting this request. I agree that I have speculated regarding my doubts for funding to take the dam out, but so have you regarding the ability to find funding. Both of us have supported our speculation with our own arguments and obviously neither of us will be changing our stances. Like I said in my previous post the only way to really end this part of the debate is for dam out supporters (citizens and elected officials or city staff) to actually find funding that applies to an Argo (urban dam) type situation and show evidence it is available. The examples you gave were, in my very biased opinion, like comparing apples to oranges. I still have not seen evidence of funding for an urban dam removal similar to Argo and the people I have spoken with say it is not available. This is a city issue since we (Ann Arbor citizens that row, walk, kayak, canoe, run, bike, swim, bird watch etc in this park and on this body of water now or completely ignore the park and are not even aware of it) pay for. The money comes out of our pockets, no one else. Yes rowers use it extensively, but you are talking aobut eliminating many used of water on speculation that other bodies of water are suitable for an even more exclusive use. Non rowing TownieMom68 hit the nail on the head with her comment "I do not use the city pools or golf courses nor do I play soccer, baseball, or disc golf. And yet my tax money funds maintenance on these facilities so that others may enjoy them. I have no problem with that, it's wonderful that there are so many activities available in our community." You can Kayak, canoe and row now, but if the dam comes out, you and I will only be able to use this stretch of water for a very limited time and in a very limited manner. Your support and acknowledgement to displace and break up, and yes very possibly eliminate some rowing programs (I now you don't agree) of a very strong dedicated rowing community of 600, so a population of out of town and much smaller in town group of fast water kayakers can use this stretch of water for a few weeks each year should be troubling to anyone in Ann Arbor that reads this. Talk about exclusive..... Currently rowers, canoeists and kayakers use this stretch of water from March to the end of October/November and should not be displaced to provide a short stretch of fast water for a small population of alternative users and will drastically reduce the recreational use of this area. At least the environmentalists in favor of removing the dams are taking a moral "dams are bad" stance, I speculate/hope that the fast water kayak out of town argument is not going to get much traction with the decision makers. I also hope that the people the Council and Mayor are influenced by regarding this issue are only Ann Arbor citizens since in either scenario we will be footing the bill. Good discussion/debate, I guess the city council will eventually pick the winner, hopefully it will be decided before we are all taking dirt naps.;-) Cheers, Mike


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 7:41 p.m.

Was it me or did the Huron Rowing Club guy last night remind anyone else of Rush Limbaugh? Just wondering... (O.K., O.K., just kidding... sort of)


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 7:31 p.m.

I like the proposals: 1. Have the rowing community pay for the dam maintenance if they feel so strongly for the dam. 2. Block off the failing berm and drain the weed infested shallows that used to feed the mill. The only purpose for this area is an aid to canoe portaging which can easily be done on an alternative route (at most some stairs and a wooden slide for the canoes)

Jon Saalberg

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 7:21 p.m.

I support the rowing community paying to support the maintenance of the dam. I imagine the Council and mayor can argue about that for a few years. By then, the dam will have collapsed, and the argument will be moot. Will council members be voted out of office for suddenly deciding the dam issue is the most important thing confronting the city. How about a balanced budget? How about a sane parking plan that doesn't involve building a 750 parking spaces at a cost of $50M, when the city doesn't fill the garages it has?

Charley Sullivan

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 7:08 p.m.

HR Paddler: An option was proposed that would combine flat and white water in the site; actually it would be a great combination of opportunities, and the Huron could be a better destination for both rowers and paddlers; so one can advocate for paddling without having to advocate for taking out Argo Dam. As I've said before on here, I paddled long before I started rowing, or coaching rowing, and I have great respect for whitewater paddlers and their skill. I also have shared the water on Argo pond with a group of flatwater racing paddlers for at least a decade, and they seem to be attracted to the water as it is now. Now, and again, if you really want to have an amazing paddling venue, please gather your folks together, and let's all work on taking out the Peninsular dam in Ypsilanti... but I've yet to see the paddling local community unite around that possibility, even though the city of Ypsilanti is interested in the possibility, and the US Canoe/Kayak federation seems to have indicated that it could be the site of a quite serious and reliable white water venue. So, please, keep paddling the Huron, but don't force the rest of us off it so you can. Unlike most paddlers, we're out there every day, six days a week, and it's not something we do alone or in a small group. We can't simply go to Lansing, Flint, Jackson, Detroit, Windsor, and even Toledo just to search for water to train by throwing our boats on top of our cars.

Huron River Paddler

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 7 p.m.

Rowing in Ann Arbor is not going to end if Argo Dam is removed. Alternatives have been discussed, but it's clear they will not be given any real consideration until the dam issue is resolved. The river is a natural resource of the State of Michigan. A restoration of the Argo stretch of river creates new opportunities for citizens of Ann Arbor and beyond. If the decision is Argo-out, funding opportunities will offset the burden to tax-payers. Regarding the dam, both structures serve the purpose of holding back and/or redirecting flow. Independently, as in the case of either the concrete structure or the berm being compromised, the flow cannot be stopped, rendering either component useless or, dare I say, the entire system failed.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 6:34 p.m.

Huron River PAddler: Thanks for your most recent points. They illustrate 2 pervasive issues that have long been clear in this debate: 1) The intensive interest that persons from outside Ann Arbor have in trying to dictate a decision to remove Argo Dam. Why is this a problem? It's not your dam. You will not pay a cent for either this or a dam in decision. And you will not have to deal with the consequences (loss of flood control or disturbing buried hazards either in the impoundment or the DTE site, to name a couple), and you will not have to tell several hundred of your children that the sport that they love, in which they have invested enormous effort, and which could help to pay for their college education, is going to go away. You'll just drive on to the next river! 2) By omission or commission, an ignorance of the facts and propagation of inaccurate information. To quote you: "The hang-up about these statements being false and using them to repeatedly discredit Ms. Rubin is laughable. Part of the dam is failing. The berm does not exist without the concrete structure and vice versa. Thus, the entire system is in jeopardy. Rubin's statements are based on mandates from the DEQ. Are the author's statements emphatic? Yes. Are they inaccurate? No." The dam is not failing. One element, the berm, requires long ignored maintenance. Further, the berm and the concrete structures are each independent entities that DO NOT depend up each other because of the design used when the concrete elements were rebuilt in 1972. If the berm goes, it will not affect the concrete dam, and vice versa. The engineer who built the dam has certified this. The city knows this. The state knows this. Laura Rubin and the HRWC know this. The state raised it's own rhetoric in its August 6th letter because it has waited 8 years for a response, ANY response, from the city other than further delays. If you want to plead your case, you would be far better served to do so with accurate facts obtained from reputable sources.

Huron River Paddler

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 6 p.m.

I have to admit, the paddling community has been under-represented at these council meetings. For many, the Huron River is a destination--one we drive hours to reach when water levels are ideal (April - June; September - October). Paddlers drive from Lansing, Flint, Jackson, Detroit, Windsor, and even Toledo. Many of these kayakers have written letters on behalf the river and the new recreational opportunities that may exist if Argo Dam is removed. In addition, many Huron River Paddlers have associations with the 40-year-old kayaking club at the University of Michigan. A base of support among paddlers exists within the city limits as well. But these groups are not as formally organized as the rowers and our rhetoric is not as strong. We are hopeful, however, that dam removal will open more doors to practice and training on seasonal whitewater in downtown Ann Arbor, and provide higher-quality fishing and wildlife-watching opportunities on the river during Summer. Having interacted with hundreds of canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts over the last year who support removal of the dam, I think it's bogus to say there's a clear majority that favor keeping the single-purpose structure. In fact, a public poll hosted by this news source indicated a 55% majority in favor of removing the dam. To conclude there's a majority in either direction is speculative. It's also speculative--and dismissive--the say that funding won't be available for a restoration of six miles of river. There are dozens of factors that determine how funds might be awarded, including but not limited to social, environmental, and recreational benefits of dam removal. A 1.5-mile restoration may be granted funds if a clear enough environmental benefit is demonstrated--just ask trout and salmon advocates out West. In defense of Laura Rubin, the following is an excerpt from an opinion piece published by the Ann Arbor News in May: "Argo Dam is failing. "That's one reason the City of Ann Arbor is considering removing it. "The Michigan DEQ found that part of the dam has deteriorated to the point where it could collapse and has ordered the city to fix or remove it. A plan must be in place by July 30." The hang-up about these statements being false and using them to repeatedly discredit Ms. Rubin is laughable. Part of the dam is failing. The berm does not exist without the concrete structure and vice versa. Thus, the entire system is in jeopardy. Rubin's statements are based on mandates from the DEQ. Are the author's statements emphatic? Yes. Are they inaccurate? No. More arguable is the severity of the berm's condition; is the DEQ going overboard? And I think it's more than fair to continue questioning the city about it's role in delaying maintenance/investigation into the claims by the DEQ that the dam, in particular the earthen berm, is failing.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 5:41 p.m.

Why would the City and not DTE be responsible for the cleanup of the land? I'm pretty sure the City does not have a contract requiring the Dam to always be in place.

Michael Psarouthakis

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 4:38 p.m.

HRP, The community could just as easily embrace a vision to keep Argo pond in place and find ways to improve the park, the pond and increase recreational use for everyone (Joe O'Neils mill race idea is one great example). I would argue that the HRWC should adopt this approach if/when dam in is decided upon. I get the feeling they won't. Supporters to keep the dam are clearly in the majority within the city. This has been shown by attendance at meetings, calls and email volume to City Council. Yes we bring yard signs, but we also show up. If the majority of Ann Arbor citizens that have an opinion on the the dam want it to stay then it should, and maybe that should be the deciding factor in the end. Ballot proposal anyone? Your funding examples opened up river lengths at least 10 times longer than the Argo stretch. This stretch will still be damed in a six mile segment, I think that both of these facts would make it very unlikely to attract funding, which I do believe is the responsibility of dam out advocates (citizens and elected officials) if not them who will do this? It has been a grand debate, one that I hope ends soon one way or another.

Charley Sullivan

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 4:25 p.m.

Actually, Huron River Paddler, it is precisely the responsibility of people advocating for change to show how that change can and should happen, including all the funding. I'd also say it's their responsibility to be truthful and complete in their advocacy, which, to go back to an issue raised earlier, is why there is a credibility gap for Laura Rubin, though I agree, attacks are not in order.

Huron River Paddler

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 4:08 p.m.

I think you will find that both the Chesaning and Nashville projects were funded by multiple sources. Chesaning, for example, received between 100 and 200k from the Department of Interior and 900k overall. The funding matrix is presumably more complex than can be broken down and digested with a few, simple Google searches. It may be worth contacting those involved with both projects. It's also noteworthy that not all dam removal projects are the same. Where one primarily benefits fisheries, another may be strongest at revitalizing a stretch of urban river. In Ann Arbor, I think we have both. Removal of Argo Dam may reinterest the state in a fish-stocking program, while opening up new recreational opportunities and sources of economic benefit in the North Main cooridor. It's not the responsibility of dam-out advocates to identify sources of funding for a dam removal project. The community must embrace a vision of dam removal, restoration of the Argo stretch of river, and take on this endeavor on its own. The HRWC has provided a plethora of evidence and now visual aides to assist the community in taking strides towards removal and restoration. Many voices support this approach (though they may not be touting yard signs at every city council meeting).


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 2:52 p.m.

Several have already made this point but I will add my voice...not everyone who wants the dam left in is a member of the rowing community. I walk my dog there every day, and kayak a couple days a week (with the dog). I enjoy the peace and quiet of Argo pond as opposed to the crowd at Gallup. It's nice to have the option of the different settings. As to the point some people have made about not wanting to "fund" such a small sub-set of the population (the rowers), I do not use the city pools or golf courses nor do I play soccer, baseball, or disc golf. And yet my tax money funds maintenance on these facilities so that others may enjoy them. I have no problem with that, it's wonderful that there are so many activities available in our community. The rowers and ALL the rest of us who use the pond regularly would loose a wonderful resource if the dam is removed.

Michael Psarouthakis

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 2:48 p.m.

Hi Rork, I am obviously not a plant expert so please excuse my description on the type of plants growing around the former Dexter dam site. It is green leafy has thorns and eliminates most if not all human use of the river shore area. Obviously there is no recreational water activity going on this area and as you pointed out there was not any prior to the Dexter dam removal, my point was in regard to the water flow. The point I was trying to make and obviously did not do a good job of was that dam out supporters have given the impression of a beautiful flowing river once the dam is removed. Specifically and recently I can point to Lauren Rubin's presentation at the Council meeting last night. She showed the Council members a color drawing that depicted the Argo dam area as a beautiful wide flowing river, obviously without the dam in place. :-) Given the known flow rates from Barton dam, there will be significant times during the summer where the river will have little or no flow and it will look a lot like the former Dexter dam site did today but on a much larger scale. I would assume stagnant small bodies of water and eliminating all recreational water uses in this part of the river. In my opinion this would be very unattractive. I think this would be a tragedy for the park, users of the park and don't see how this will improve the health of the river or improve fish habitat. Remove all the dams in Ann Arbor and you have an argument supporting attractive water flows as depicted in Lauren's drawing, but everyone knows that Barton dam is not going anywhere given Barton Pond supplies 80% of Ann Arbor's drinking water, so I think this depiction of wide fast flowing river is not accurate and comparison to the former Dexter river dam site is more realistic. I would encourage everyone to take a drive and visit the Dexter dam site yourself, don't take my word on it (and we will get a better plant description I would guess) and then go visit Argo park/pond. The question I would ask those that do make this trip is do you want Argo Park to look like some version of this? I think many if not most people will say no. Regarding overestimates there are lots of examples, but I can point to this thread where dam out supporters have stated the cost of toe drain repair as high as $1 million and yearly maintenance costs of $60,000 which are higher than anything I have read. Rork, thanks for the opportunity to clarify. HRP, Thanks for digging this information up. I think the first example (state money) was clearly done to improve a major fishery, it opened up 37 miles of stream which is not comparable to Argo's 3 or 6 miles depending on how you look at it. I work for the state and can tell you there is no money in the coffiers so don't hold your breath on state funding. I would not be surprised if this project is/was put on hold due to the state budget crisis. The second example (fed money) opened up 60 mainstream and 105 tributary stream miles and reconnected five inland lakes to the Thornapple River. Removing Argo will only impact three/six miles. also I only found that the grant was for $74,900 not $200,000, from the press release I found : "WASHINGTON Two dams on the Thornapple River in Barry County will be removed after a $74,900 grant was made to the Barry Conservation District, U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both D-Mich., announced today. The grant to remove the Nashville and Maple Hill dams, provided through the U.S. Department of the Interior, was made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act." If a dam that blocks over 60 miles of river can only get $74k or even using your number $200k, I don't think the Argo project that only opens up a short section of still damed river will get much if any funding. If the dam out advocates can get funding that covers a significant portion of the costs they make their argument much more compelling from that point of view. I just don't see it happening in this scenario and I am speculationg but probably why I have been told there are no funds avaialble from the people I have spoken with that are in elected positions. Nevertheless thanks for digging these example up. Still does not change my position :-)


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 2:14 p.m.

Can anyone name a river that comes to a 90 degree angle. I assume there may be rivers in canyons that may. The river was reshaped in Ann Arbor over 150 years ago. Is the cost of flooding and contamination through the DTE site worth the price of dam removal?

Huron River Paddler

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 2:12 p.m.

The Village of Chesaning, Michigan, received $900,000 from the state for a dam removal in that town. From the Department of Interior website: "This dam was identified as one of the most significant impediments to the restoration of the Saginaw Bay walleye fishery, a million dollar recreational fishery for the Great Lakes. Its removal will support restoration of lake sturgeon and walleye to the Lake Huron and the Saginaw River Watershed. This project enabled walleye to access to 37 miles of upstream habitat and spawning habitat, and provided work to local contractors and heavy equipment operators. The Chesaning Dam removal project is an example of people from the community, local governments, and natural resources agencies working together on a project for the benefit of aquatic resources and the local economy. Community fundraising efforts for this project and preservation of the Villages annual Showboat Festival raised more than $92,000 in donations from 59 businesses, community groups and private individuals. Organizations that partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service include the Village of Chesaning, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network." News coverage: The Barry Conservation District was awarded $200,000 for a dam removal project on the Thornapple River in Nashville, Michigan. Money is available for dam removal, folks. How about grants for dam repair? Oh, and did anyone catch the Environment Report about aged US dams? Ron Corso is with the United States Society on Dams. Theres enough sites out there to dramatically increase the amount of hydropower that exists today, and the FERC has more applications in front of it than it has in twenty years. The FERC is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It's the government agency that oversees dams. Corso says communities are weighing the economic costs before repairing or retro-fitting an old dam. And if the dam is small say under 20 feet tall Corso says it often is not worth the cost. The height of Argo Dam: 18 feet Ann Arbor will find better investments in energy efficiency that it will in any endeavor to retrofit Argo Dam for hydro-power. I urge everyone to start considering the economic opportunities that exist with a dam-out option. Economic benefits of keeping the dam are few.

Rork Kuick

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 1:35 p.m.

Michael: You forgot to give one example of where Dam out people overestimated the costs of dam maintenance. We usually just accept the city's estimates is the actual fact. Instead you turn back to arguing dam removal costs. Let me take just one point from your previous long comment going " I drove out to the site of the former Dexter dam during lunch today to have a look around. The shore is overrun with invasive species like buckhorn, the flow is very low more like a creek it is not a pretty or very useful body of water." I'm getting tired of "what I saw" arguments. You name just 1 species, poorly - we must guess you mean "buckthorn". I have to guess maybe you mean common buckthorn or glossy buckthorn, rather than one of the native buckthorns. I'm skeptical of the entire report though. Maybe I can find old ones on the FORMER bank of the former impoundment, but those are not products of dam removal. That the flow is low, like a creek, is because it's a creek, eh? That it is "not very useful" is telling - we just want it to be a creek again, and let fish travel, and did not expect a year-round boating paradise to result. It wasn't that useful with the dam in either, unless you were a purple loosestrife. Are you arguing the dam in Dexter should have stayed too?


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 1:18 p.m.

While there are good arguments on both sides of the issue, what CIty Council owes the residents of Ann Arbor is a timely response. This issue has dragged on long enough, it's time to make a decision. Sadly, the repeated delays by the Mayor and City Council seem to be their MO. It's fortunate nothing has happened to the dam in the interim. I hope it doesn't take nine years to figure out what to do with the bridges on Stadium Boulevard.

Michael Psarouthakis

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 1:17 p.m.

Henry, there is no evidence that federal money is available to remove urban dams. If you know of any, please post it as I would like to read up on this. I have read about very limited money to remove dams in non urban natural areas, no way Argo would qualify for this money. On the other hand Vets Hospital is looking into electrifying Gallop and Argo, if they do this I suspect they will pick up much of the maintenance costs. Not sure where this stands. I have not seen any estimates in excess of $400,000 (Joe O'Neils plan) most are in the $300,000 range for the toe drain repair, where did you get the $1 million number from? Where is the $60,000 annual cost for dam maintenance coming from and has the city been spending this amount over the past 10 years? I have heard it is more like $20,000 per year but have not seen the actual numbers.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 1:15 p.m.

Please allow me to clarify that the "rowers" you refer to are primarily comprised of local high school kids from diverse economic backgrounds that participate on public school sponsored varsity crew teams. It's unlikely our school system, or the families (your neighbors), have the funds to pay for maintenance costs, especially for a venue that is used by multi-interest groups. Let's set a good example for these teens in the spirit of goodwill and collaboration to create a solution that is fiscally responsible to the entire community as well as improve the river quality in a practical manner.

Michael Psarouthakis

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 1:05 p.m.

Rork, I can flip most of your arguments in support of keeping the dam in place. Dam out people want to make the cost of keeping the dam as expensive as possible, gosh I wonder why that would be? The cost of rebuilding the bridge is real, lets not take the dam out and no bridge has to be rebuilt and no one is inconvenienced. The cost of restoration is not an issue if the dam stays, park is beautiful as it is, sounds like you use it now. If a restoration plan is not funded and the dam is removed the park becomes an invasive species breeding ground and muddy mess during low water times until the invasives fill in the flood plain. Millions for whitewater-park stuff? Simple - let's not do that, I agree. If anything open up the flow for the mill race making for a longer no portage trip down the river, and decreasing some of the mill race berm pressure issues and toe drain maintenance costs. The Detroit Edison property issue, only becomes an issue if the dam is taken out. May cost $350k could be a lot more or possibly less. Pollution issues or hydro building projects are usually not cheep, so I would be surprised if it only cost $350k. Just because information comes from one side or the other does not make it true or false. Everyone is using the information they can to support their point of view. Nothing wrong with that, and nothing wrong with challenging the information provided by the other side. Keeps everyone honest or opens them up to some serious public ridicule for exaggerating or misstating information. The whole funding issue is a big part of the problem the dam out people face. There are so many unknown costs to removing the dam. The costs are known and manageable if the dam stays. The dam out people should have done a full cost analysis of this project prior to attacking the cost of keeping the dam. The maintenance costs, even using the dam out numbers (which I believe are inflated just as you believe the dam in numbers are inflated) are not very compelling when compared to the unknown risks in changing water flow with regard to the Edison site, possible silt pollution issues and known and unknown costs of removing the dam. Taking the dam out $1.3 million, lets not do that, instead fix the mill race for $200k to $400k (depending on the solution) and use the money the city saves from dam removal for 15 to 25 years of maintenance costs and further improvements to Argo park. Much better cash flow for the city. If the dam stays no cost to move the rowers so not an issue and if Barton and Gallop can some day be used for rowing allows for the further expansion of the fastest growing recreational sport in the US. More people going outside to use the river is a good thing, and there is clear evidence that rowing is attracting more interest in Ann Arbor. Actually the Argo issue probably has helped attract kids and adults to the sport. My entire family now rows (five of us) and none of us did 2 years ago. If the mill race flow is connected to the main river this could actually increase the profitability of the current livery and provide the opportunity to build a new livery below Barton dam, actually making the city some money.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 12:44 p.m.

$2 million for floodplain cleanup is ridiculous; it'll be a fraction of that. We're not "building a whitewater rafting area"--that was part of a totally different proposal that was abandoned months ago. But the larger point is that every cost that's ever been mentioned about Argo has been disputed by one side or the other. The city did a cost analysis of both options. Neither side was particularly happy with the numbers they got, but the study concluded that over the long term, removing the dam was the cheaper option. In the short term, there is stimulus money for just this kind of project. Moreover, in the long term the costs of Argo will likely shift into the Parks dept budget, where 60,000 in annual maintenance costs and regular six-figure repair jobs will compete with things like the Senior Center and swimming pools. The dam is a massive piece of infrastructure, rated "high hazard" by the Army Corps of Engineers, and will require ongoing maintenance as long as it exists. You can't just fix it now and forget it.

Rork Kuick

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 12:16 p.m.

Pro-dam people want to make the costs of removal seem as high as possible - gosh, I wonder why that would be. The cost for the pedestrian bridge is real - why don't we use the giant bridges just downstream instead and not build that? Admittedly there are some reasons it would be convenient, but I'd be willing to do without for awhile, and see how it goes. 2 million for restoration - let's not spend that much, at least not over the next 10-20 years. 350,000 for the Edison property comes from an unnamed pro-dam emailer, right? The cities reports do not mention this, right? What trouble with access is anticipated? Millions for whitewater-park stuff? Simple - let's not do that. OK, moving rowers is a real problem, especially if you row.

Michael Psarouthakis

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 12:09 p.m.

Comments opinions and observations: Interesting that this article did not pick up on the number of environmental facts that supports of keeping the dam and pond in place presented (by both the rowing supporters as well as supporters of the dam that have no ties to the rowing community). A few items I picked up last night that I was not previously aware of; Argo pond is actually cooler than up stream Barton Pond. Argo pond is one of the few bodies of water on the Huron river that is designated/certified as safe to swim in (Barton and Gallop are not). What I believe is the most significant environmental issue that has not been addressed until very recently; If the dam is removed the very polluted Detroit Edison property will likely be eroded into the river and as a result some kind of remedy such as a redirection structure to prevent this from occurring will have to be built or the site cleaned (likely millions of dollars either way). The conceptual drawing that Laura Rubin presented showed fairly wide body of water with no or minimal bend where the dam currently sits. Not sure how the water will stay as wide as this drawing portrays, but if this design is accurate and the river returns to the original path it had prior to the dam being built, the Detroit Edison property issue will have to be addressed likely adding millions to the projected $1.3 million cost of just removing the dam. The estimated cost of removing the dam, approximately $1.3 million (does not include landscaping, testing and addressing of the silt pollution possibility, Detroit Edition issue) and there is no federal funding to remove the dam, I have spoken with a number of City Council members and one State Rep and they confirm there is no federal funding for removing urban dams. If this can be disputed someone needs to present some factual data and proof of an application process. The cost to fix the mill race toe drains is estimated at around $200,000 to $400,000, with even less expensive options available by just shutting the mill race down (horrible option for canoe and kayak people). If the redesign of the mill race, as proposed by Joe O'Neal, is adopted at an estimated cost of $400,000, The mill race portage would be eliminated by allowing the mill race water to flow back to the main body of the Huron river through an opening in the berm. I assume much of the toe drain maintenance would be eliminated as the water pressures on the berm would be dramatically decreased, and I would assume reducing the toe drain maintenance would significantly reduce the maintenance costs the dam out supporters seemed so concerned about recently. A number of speakers from last night (two or three out of a total of ten) were in favor of keeping the dam and were not part of the rowing community. I drove out to the site of the former Dexter dam during lunch today to have a look around. The shore is overrun with invasive species like buckhorn, the flow is very low more like a creek it is not a pretty or very useful body of water. Actually now that I think about it the drawing presented by Ms. Rubin looks very much like what the river/pond looks like today except the dam is not there. I don't see how that conceptual drawing is possible if the dam is removed. There are documented times when the flow from Barton dam is negligible or non existent during the summer, meaning the area that is now Argo pond will be for the most part a muddy river bed at times. As a result, I believe the Dexter site (but on a much larger scale) is a more accurate preview of what is in store for the Argo pond area if the dam is removed. If this is true it would be a shame, compared to the beautiful body of water that is there today. Over the past two years of public meetings about Argo dam the overwhelming feedback has been to keep the dam in place and fix or reconfigure the mill race. If there is such a compelling argument and support for taking the dam out, where are the city based supporters? I am concerned that some/much of the email support in favor of removing the dam comes from out of town supporters, people that are opposed to all dams based on environmental concerns and don't have a local stake in the issue. This is the only explanation I can come up with for the absolute lack of dam out support I have seen at the public meetings I have attended. I have been to at least six public meeting regarding Argo over the past two years and my estimated ratio of dam in versus dam out supporters runs around 10 or 15 to 1, in favor of keeping the dam in place. Last night there was no more than 4 dam out supporters by my count, which I did when Laura Rubin asked dam out supporters to stand during her three minutes of public comment to the Council compared to around 45 dam in supporters. If the council members and the mayor do not heed the overwhelming support to keep the dam and fix the mill race I imagine they will suffer the consequences if/when they run for reelection. Kudos to the sponsors of this resolutions for trying to get some decision made by the council and move this forward after nine years of study, was it perfect probably not, but there was nothing on the agenda regarding this matter so this was the right thing to do. Unfortunately it was tabled so now there is nothing on the agenda for the next meeting and who knows when this will be resolved. In my opinion separating the issues of fixing the mill race and removing the dam is a waste of time. If the city puts the funds up to fix the mill race they are not going to then vote to take the dam out, if they do it would be the hight of fiscal irresponsibility and they should be impeached or voted out. I believe a separation of the issue is just a political move allowing the Council members and/or Mayor that are in support of removing the dam to provide a glimmer of hope that this will someday be accomplished, keeping their support for the next election. I don't believe the arguments pro and con are going to change no matter how many more public hearings are held. Given the publicity of this issue the ratio of supporters for dam in versus dam out is likely not going to change or we would have seen evidence of this earlier. The hybrid solution is the only one that may satisfy many from both sides but there is no money to implement this very expensive proposal anytime soon. The next best solution is to adopt Joe O'Neils proposal, redesign the mill race eliminating the portage and leave this relatively new dam (built in 1972) in place. I believe Joe's proposal will actually expand the recreational use of this area. According to city staff at the Parks meeting regarding Argo, if the portage was eliminated more people would rent canoes to take the trip down river, so many that they mentioned the possibility of building another livery just below Barton dam. This discussion from city staff was in support of dam removal, but if Joe's plan was put in place it should have the same result of more recreational users and boat rentals. City Council members do your job, have your public hearing and then vote yes or no on repairing the mill race, if yes the dam stays, if no to the mill race repair then the only solution is to take the dam out. Given the presentation about the homeless issue in Ann Arbor, that was made at the start of last night's Council meeting, there is no doubt the Council has more important work to do, it is time to put this nine year old issue to bed. Save about $1 million for more important issues fix the mill race and we can all move on.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 11:47 a.m.

The "dam out" people live in a fantasy land where money seems to fall out of trees. I've attended almost all of the public meetings and council sessions where the dam issue has been discussed. I have not heard at ANY point, the specific sources money will come from to pay for: 1) the new $500,000 pedestrian bridge which will replace the bridge across the top of the dam 2) The $2 million+ it will cost to restore the approx. 20 acres of flood-plain land that will be recovered, and clean up potentially hazardous sediment. It's a known fact that the Edison property near the current dam, which used to be a coal gasification plant, is a toxic, polluted site. See next item: 3) $350,000 (at least) to build a concrete wall/barrier to protect flooding of the polluted Edison property - a protection currently provided by the Argo Dam. 4) Unknown costs to remove/replace/modify public access points in the river and pond area once the dam is removed. 5) Several million dollars to build a white water rafting area, one of the claimed advantages of dam removal. Keep in mind that due to cold weather and low water flows during most of the year, the facility will only be usable at most, for several months. Revenue projections have been greatly exaggerated by dam removal proponents. 6) Costs to move the rowing community to other venue(s). This WILL involve building a new boat house, parking lot(s), docks, adding some landscaping, and a lot of city planning time. Regardless of who pays for this, it's a cost to the community. There is simply NO budget in the City finances to pay for the above, even if you optimistically assume we can find 50% from other sources. The average cost per year to maintain the dam is probably less than $80,000. That's way less than all the countless man-hours that have been wasted on this debate. It's a TOTAL myth that the only people in favor of keeping the dam are rowers. As I said, I have attended almost all the meetings. There have been many speakers and attendees with no connection to rowers, who believe that Argo Dam should stay. I have heard people with strong backgrounds in engineering, ecology, and urban planning refute many of the arguments of the "dam-out" proponents. One thing we can all agree upon though: The City has irresponsibly delayed taking action on repairing the dam for at least 5 years. The longer they delay making a decision, the more time everyone with an interest in this issue wastes. The correct thing to do NOW, is to repair the dam. It spends the least amount of money now, and solves the problem with the State of Michigan. Plus, it preserves a treasured part of the Ann Arbor Park system for future users.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 11:38 a.m.

Yes, it seems like Ann Arborites are finally recognizing this issue and that people other than 0.5% of Ann Arbor's population that row on Argo are starting to pay attention. The rowers can try to spin it in different ways, but rivers are inherently healthier without dams and it is simply cheaper for Ann Arbor to remove the dam than to fix and maintain it. We're basically paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain an artificial pond that's bad for the river. Oh, and for the record I'm wondering what's wrong with listening to paid environmentalists with years of education and field experience. Who are we supposed to listen to? The hobbyist environmentalists?

Rork Kuick

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 11:24 a.m.

Removing the dam is not completely independent from fixing the toe drains, since removal could mean we don't have to fix that - presuming action doesn't take forever. It also means avoiding maintenance costs on that dam in the future, which is a major goal. It's also doing the right thing ecologically, and also esthetically, if your eyes are anything like mine. Historically, we've done lots of dumb stuff - let's not glorify it. Let's do something to save the river, perhaps the most beautiful one is southern lower Michigan (in case you didn't know).


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 11:24 a.m.

The Grateful Dead canoed from the Argo livery years ago.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 10:54 a.m.

@ Wystan- By your reasoning, anything old should be preserved. By virtue of your argument, the River should be allowed to run in its natural (older) state. Please keep in mind that urban riverfront is just as valuable (if not more) as urban pondfront.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 10:45 a.m.

To: currentthoughts All of your statements are false and misleading. You have no idea what you are talking about. The city does not have the money to take out the dam and all the costs associated with the removal. The city will never choose to require a user fee for a single-user group. 10% of canoe and kayak rentals stay in Argo pond, that revenue will be lost because Gallup is too crowded. Any experienced kayak users will bring their own equipment in the spring and fall, the water will be to low during the summer. To assume that more users will rent at Argo to creat "thousands" is unlikely. The crew teams cannot move to Barton. Barton Hills has refused entrnace onto their private road. Locating to Gallup will require clearing a new location, building a new facility and parking area which is even more money the city does not have. You and the watershed council live in fantasy land.

Ann Arbor Andy

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 10:15 a.m.

Seems the only group that wants the dam to stay put at a huge maintenance cost are rowers - Q why should taxpayers foot the bill for a very tiny but very very vocal minority? Let the rowing clubs/teams ante up the repair costs.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 10:11 a.m.

LETS KEEP ARGO POND The pond now called Argo has been a fixture of the local landscape since 1832, when Anson Brown erected a grist mill beside an early wooden version of the Broadway Bridge, and built the first dam to hold water back to power the mill. (Born a New Yorker, Brown started the settlement known as Lower Town Ann Arbor, calling Broadway and Wall Street after thoroughfares in New York City. Brown owned the mill, but was not the miller, and he died in the cholera epidemic of 1834.) An internet search wont find early 19th-century references to Argo, because the pond didnt have that name until 1892, when a group of Ann Arbor businessmen, investors in the Michigan Milling Company, took over the operation (then known as the Sinclair Mills) and rebuilt the structure that they then named the Argo Flouring Mills. The dam and pond took their name from the mills, but no one knows where that name came from. Did the mills golden grain suggest a comparison to the brave ship Argo of Greek myth, which bore Jason and his men in search of the Golden Fleece? (The Michigan Milling Company had its offices at the Central Mills on First Street, where the Blind Pig is now and where, Im told, a certain golden liquid flows a beverage made from grain.) Through the decades, the dam was rebuilt a few times (and probably made a little higher, after the Eastern Michigan Edison Company acquired the water rights). But in a freak calamity that drew a crowd of spectators, the Argo mill exploded and burned on January 4, 1904. Firemen came, and the water that doused the flames left a white pall of icicles on the tall buildings ruined skeleton, a scene captured in dramatic photographs. The companys plutocrat investors decided not to rebuild, and a picturesque milling era we might call it the Flouring of Ann Arbor came to an end. From Argos ashes rose the Phoenix of a new era of power generation. Within a few years, the company later known as Detroit Edison had erected a power generating station on the mill site, running its turbines and generators with water from the millrace. Three weeks after the mill disaster, on January 27, 1904, the Ann Arbor Railroads trestle collapsed, dropping a heavy freight train and its cargo onto the ice of Argo Pond. In the days that followed, parties of gawkers turned out for that spectacle too, including small boys like the late Ray Spokes, who went out onto the ice and looted water-soaked crates of Beemans Pepsin Gum. The inadequate early trestle which stood close to the dam got replaced months later with another of thick steel, on massive concrete piers, a landmark still in place. (That year, 1904, was a bad one at both ends: on the last day of December, the Ann Arbor High School burned to the ground.) Throughout the 19th century, and early decades of the 20th, winter ice was harvested on Argo Pond, and stored in great blocks in straw-lined ice houses on the Main Street riverbank. Some of the ice buildings were owned by downtown caterers like Jacob Hangsterfer, whose big emporium depended on a steady supply of ice to preserve meats and other perishables, and to refresh thirsty customers at his ballroom, year round. Another enterprising German immigrant was Paul G. Tessmer, who in 1898 sold his grocery business and opened a boat livery the U. of M. Boat House on the ponds Main Street side. By 1906, Tessmer had a stock of 160 canoes and 40 rowboats, all built by himself. He and his big family lived in a house on Sunset hill, overlooking the pond a building that became the Elks Pratt Lodge. Tessmers docks and boathouse later were moved across the pond, to the foot of Longshore Drive, and became William J. Saunders canoe livery, then Jack Wirths, until 1969, when the Ann Arbor parks department took over. On moonlit evenings in June, the pond was jammed with U-M students in canoes, boys in blazers treating their sweethearts to a mandolin serenade. Around 1900, these romantics began calling the path along the headrace embankment Lovers Lane. (In the 1930s and 40s, the embankment became part of Ann Arbors hobo jungle.) One of the citys public works projects during the Depression years was the building of a public bathing beach at the foot of Longshore Drive, where the canoe livery is now. Tons and tons of Lake Michigan white sand were hauled in and spread around, to make the beach comfortable and pretty. Repeated summer polio scares in the 1940s eventually led to its closing. The pond was drained in 1930, when Edison built a new dam, and again in the early 1970s, when Joe ONeals construction company built the present dam for the city a project completed in 1972. Treasure hunters prowled the muck for artifacts, and collectors found old Ann Arbor bottles for their collections. Construction workers pulled a particularly heavy souvenir out of the mud: a set of ribbed steel wheels, from one of the boxcars that fell off the old railroad trestle in 1904! Argo Pond is an essential element of the history of Ann Arbor; it helps define our citys character. In historical terms, Ann Arbor has always had that pond, has grown up around it, and would not be the same without it. Some folks have called it stagnant, but of course that is absurd. It is a dynamic body, as dynamic as the city itself. The waters of the Huron have flowed since time began, and they have been flowing through the pond and over the dam, ever since Ann Arbor was a tiny village in the wilderness west of Detroit. By all means let us maintain momentum, improve the ponds surroundings, clear out shabby factory buildings on North Main Street, and replace them with an attractive multi-use facility, one which includes cafes and a dining terrace that overlooks trees and water. It is a view to be enjoyed in every season. But let us not rashly sacrifice our beloved Argo Pond, Ann Arbors urban waterfront. Argo is an asset, an amenity of the type that other communities long for. We should consider every means of enhancing access to it, and keeping its shining surface intact. Dont pull the plug on Argo dont let it go down the drain. My enjoyment of the river has been passive. I havent been out in a boat, havent stopped to watch the oarsmen, never even dipped a toe in Argo Pond but I appreciate Argos contribution to the quality of life in this place, and I like to see it now and then, and know that it is there. I hope that it will forever remain in the heart of our city, where it has been bubbling and rippling for 177 years.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 9:59 a.m.

This has been a great, spirited debate on both sides; however, what has consistently dimished the quality of the conversation is the ongoing personal attacks aimed at Laura Rubin, the Executive Director of the Huron River Watershed Council. It was on full display last night at the Council meeting. Please, it is hurtful and inappropriate. Stop the character assassinations. Please stick to the quality of the arguments that you perceive on both sides of the Dam issue and argue on the merits.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 9:59 a.m.

Tee, I did a cursory check, but couldn't find any reports supporting your contention that removal of lowhead dams cause environmental damage. The most damning dam removal report was penned by Bruce Babbit who even admits to the damage to native fish populations by damns. His most strenuous argument is the economic burden put on the power producing companies that depend on those damns. Lets get our dam facts straight.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 9:39 a.m.

Just got an e-mail from a dam-in supporter who says that, if the city decides to remove the dam, it will need to build new concrete and other river-training constructions to keep the river from flooding the utilities property in the event of a surge or high water event. The reader points out that similar measures were built near the Arboretum at a cost of $350,000.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 9:26 a.m.

Can you point me to some of the mounting evidence? Sounds intriguing. Where are the estimates I provided off?


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 9:17 a.m.

The national movement to remove dams has shifted with mounting evidence that removing dams are proving to cause more ecological damage than good. The figures you provided are also inaccurate.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 9:06 a.m.

As to the comment asking where the money will come from, two points: 1) By all estimates I have seen, the net cost to remove the dam is far lower than the $300,000 to $1 million to do initial repairs, $60,000 per year to maintain the dam and $250,000 needed to make additional repairs in a year or two from now 2) Federal stimulus money is available to Ann Arbor to cover the costs of dam removal (but not dam repair). Let's get in line with the national movement to remove dams that provide no benefits to their communities (other than simply creating ponds)!


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 8:35 a.m.

When will we start referring to the repairs correctly? The required repairs are to the berm and while the berm is critical to holding water back in the current configuration, it is easily isolated by blocking the channel that canoes travel through. Personally I'd like to see the dam out, however this is an entirely different discussion and should be presented in a clear manner and a separate but related project to the toe drain repair or isolation.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 8:08 a.m.

Where is the money going to come from in our city budget to fund the removal of the dam? Council has indicated a looming budget crisis will occur due to our current economic climate. It's my fear that city services and jobs will be cut to fund an expensive and unnecesary pet project being forced on the community by paid enviromentalists. Pardon the pun, but fishy politics indeed.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 8:08 a.m.

Since it would be unfair to burden the taxpayer with the cost of dam repairs and maintenance in the long term (repairs which primarily benefit a small sub-set of the community), it makes the most sense for Council to offer to privatize the dam. This forces "Dam-in" proponents to internalize the real cost of the dam. Let's how much they want it, then.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 8:04 a.m.

Removing Argo Dam would provide the following Ecological Benefits: Restores the rivers ecological functions and critical habitat by improving the water quality and restoring the natural flow of the river. Recreation Benefits: Improves canoeing and kayaking for the majority of paddlers desire river trips in a river current and a longer free flowing stretch of river without a portage. Removing the difficult portage makes the river trips accessible for all. It opens up new recreational opportunities for thousands of people such as popular tubing and whitewater kayaking. The row teams can move to other impoundments, for most of the river in Ann Arbor are impoundments, and when the row teams first evaluated which impoundments to use first choice was Barton, second was Geddes and third was Argo. Fishing would improve by increasing diversity of fish, provide more river areas for the popular small mouth bass fishery and possibly introduce a trout fishery. Low head dams, such as Argo, are significant safety hazards for recreational users. Economic Benefits: Will have a distinct economic benefit, such as cost savings over repairing and maintaining the dam, substantial increased income to the citys canoe liveries and create a tourist attraction with beneficial spillover affect with the potential of creating millions of dollars of economic income for the local community every year. There is grant money available to remove dams and to restore the parkland. Dam maintenance is expensive and will most likely be charged to the parks and recreation department, increasing recreational costs to the citizens of Ann Arbor and to the row teams. Without Argo Dam the parks department would have a six figure increase in revenue by renting tubes and whitewater kayaks in direct contrast to the over $50,000 a year per dam in maintenance cost. The rowing community is not contributing to the cost of Argo Pond as a recreational facility but should be expected to pay for the yearly costs of maintaining Argo Dam in the future. Alternatively the parks department and the rowing teams could share the cost of maintaining one dam. Lets join the rest of the country and remove our aging dam, see how the river will heal and local businesses and recreation, as well as fish and wildlife, will thrive when the river is restored.


Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 7:45 a.m.

The city council has a lot of important decisions to make. (like taxes, development etc) Vote on the DAM and get it over with. What a bunch of "willy nilly" people deciding our fate. Could someone with a spine please run for city council?

Jim Mulchay

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 : 7:11 a.m.

I do not think the city wants to make any decision. I think they hope the state (DEQ, etc.) will back-off or change their minds allowing the status quo to continue. The worst thing the city can do now is order a "study", but I'd guess that is the likely action that will be taken.