Work to stabilize the Otsego Township Dam will likely not happen this year.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources manages the disused dam, which is located on the Kalamazoo River near River Road west of Otsego.
Mark Mills, the DNR’s dam manager for the area, said the project wasn’t proceeding as fast as previously hoped.
“We’re still in the design phase as far as how we might do it,” Mills said. “We’re still trying to work out some permitting and engineering snags.”
The former hydroelectric dam is more than 100 years old and has been targeted for removal by the state but can only be taken out in tandem with a cleanup of PCB-contaminated sediments under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Kalamazoo River Superfund site. It is rated the worst in the Superfund site.
The DNR obtained a federal grant last year to fund work that would shore the dam up to be sure it was stable while it awaited total removal. A break in the dam wouldn’t cause any significant property damage from flooding, according to the state, but would lead to many new areas being contaminated with PCBs.
Because, despite optimism, the timetable for a full cleanup remains uncertain, the DNR’s plan was to create a temporary structure that could be easily removed after the dam was, but that is a design problem.
“It’s very difficult to design a temporary structure that doesn’t involve a lot of concrete and cost,” Mills said. “There are a lot of liability concerns with the engineers.”