DTE Energy offering to pay for whitewater features included in Argo Dam headrace project
DTE Energy is offering to pick up the tab for whitewater features planned as part of the city of Ann Arbor's reconstruction of the Argo Dam headrace.
The only catch, officials say, is the city must agree to hold off on adding the whitewater features in the Huron River until after DTE completes environmental remediation on its nearby property, likely in 2012, as required by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
By having DTE pay for the whitewater features, the city is expected to save $163,636, according to Colin Smith, the city's parks and recreation manager.
The city's Park Advisory Commission is now recommending using about $85,000 of those savings to construct an improved entrance to the headrace, a 1,500-foot channel that runs parallel to the Huron River and allows canoeists and kayakers to bypass Argo Dam.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The Ann Arbor City Council now must decide if it wants to go along with PAC's recommended plan and amend the city's contract with Livonia-based TSP Environmental, the firm hired last year to complete the $1.17 million headrace reconstruction project.
The council is expected to take up the issue next month.
Currently the entrance to the Argo headrace is through a narrow concrete culvert with low head clearance. The option the city is considering involves removing the top of the culvert, adding grouted limestone to widen the approach, constructing new concrete abutments and installing an "arched prefabricated steel clear span bridge" with a concrete deck.
City officials note the cost of making those improvements will be more than offset by the savings realized from DTE’s commitment to pay for the whitewater features.
DTE officials could not be reached for comment.
According to city officials, DTE recently performed state-required sediment sampling in the area of the proposed whitewater features. The area is adjacent to DTE's property on the south side of the Huron River, between Allen Creek Drain and the Broadway Bridge.
City officials said the investigation revealed a need for remediation, and that led DTE to commit to funding the whitewater features once remediation is done.
"There are two features that will be installed in the main channel of the river, so it didn't make sense to install them now if DTE needed to remediate in that area," said Molly Wade, the city's water treatment services manager.
"We hope we're looking at potentially 2012 to be able to install those whitewater features," she added. "There's no problem with doing this at a later date."
The city already has begun preliminary site work for the reconstruction of the Argo headrace, following orders from the DEQ to address concerns about the stability of the earthen embankment that separates the headrace from the main river channel.
The Border-to-Border trail along the embankment was closed recently and detour signs are posted to redirect bicyclists and pedestrians around the construction.
Wade said the city hopes to receive permits from the state this week to begin the major reconstruction work, including moving earth.
"We're excited to get moving," she said. "Things will start to happen very quickly and we hope to be substantially complete by the time winter hits, so probably by early December."
The overall project, as approved by the City Council, calls for removing the canoe portage at the end of the headrace. Also being added are a series of drop pools through the headrace, making it easier for novice canoeists and kayakers to get from Argo to points east.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.