FishPass to Commence

April 8, 2024

FishPass Project to Commence in the City of Traverse City
Boardman/Ottaway River Restoration at the Union Street Dam

After years of planning, the City of Traverse City is pleased to announce that the FishPass project is advancing.  This is a significant development, marking a pivotal moment for the restoration and ecological health of the Boardman/Ottaway River. The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with local contractor Spence Brothers, have finalized the contract and expect to proceed with initial site prep work this spring.
FishPass represents the culmination of approximately two decades of restoration efforts on the Boardman/Ottaway River, aiming to reconnect the river with Lake Michigan. It addresses the deteriorating Union Street Dam, replacing it with a new, complete barrier to all fish while incorporating innovative technology to selectively pass desirable species and block harmful invaders like sea lamprey.

City Manager, Liz Vogel stated, "We are thrilled that the FishPass project will begin this spring. The critical replacement of the Union Street Dam is paramount in safeguarding our residents from potential hazards. We are immensely grateful to our project partners for their unwavering commitment to the project and diligent efforts in securing funding that alleviates the burden on our taxpayers in the City of Traverse City."

Utilizing existing resources and budgeted contingency funding, the project will begin with in-stream or “wet” work.  These critical project elements, prioritizing safety, include dam replacement and fish passage channel development.  Major construction is anticipated to begin in June 2024 and is anticipated to be complete in 2026.  Concurrently, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and project partners will finalize costs and funding for the up-land or “dry” project elements, which are sequenced to begin in 2026 if not before.  These important elements include the construction of an educational facility, landscaping enhancement and universal accessibility.  
With the project’s timeline extended, costs have increased for the wet work, from $19.3 million to $23.2 million. In addition, it is estimated that the dry work costs will be higher as well when contract re-negotiations occur. However, between contingency funding of $5.2 million secured, and time and planning for additional funding, the City and Fishery Commission are confident that all project elements will be completed in 2027.
“We are grateful to the City for its contributions to and unwavering support for FishPass, which include the costs associated with the watermain re-location and the pursuit of additional funding opportunities like state and federal grants. Building on this collaboration between our partners, we are confident that all resources will be secured to complete the upland project amenities – resources that, perhaps, the Commission would not be able to access on our own”, said Dr. Marc Gaden, Executive Secretary of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.  

Sustainable Waterway Management
FishPass incorporates innovative technology to selectively pass desirable fish species while effectively blocking harmful invaders like sea lamprey. This mechanism helps maintain the long term health and ecological balance of the Boardman/Ottaway River ecosystem, and sets a standard for responsible stewardship.
Ecological Restoration
By replacing the aging Union Street Dam with a new, complete barrier, FishPass contributes to ongoing restoration efforts. It aims to enhance the ecological health of the river and its surrounding habitat, fostering biodiversity and ecosystem resilience.

In addition, FishPass will result in a revitalization of the tree canopy around the dam and a net increase in trees within the City. Approximately 61 trees over 6 inches in diameter at breast height will be removed. Approximately 20% are located on the dam and constitute a dam safety hazard, requiring removal regardless of the project. The design plan accounts for planting 73 native trees, a total of 371 native shrubs, and nearly 2,100 live stakes along the shoreline. In addition to the trees and plantings on site, approximately 80 more trees will be gifted to the City of Traverse City for placement in other public locations.
Community Safety and Well-Being
The implementation of FishPass prioritizes the safety and well-being of the Traverse City community. The project addresses concerns related to dam safety, as the Union Street Dam was rated in fair to poor condition according to a 2021 MDEQ Dam Safety Unit inspection. By replacing the deteriorating dam with a new, complete barrier, FishPass mitigates potential risks associated with dam failure, ensuring the safety of local residents and infrastructure. As severe weather events increase, the new structure presents improvement for flood control and has a design life of 75-100 years.

Site Preparation & Staging: In-Stream “Wet” Work
Site preparation will begin this spring and involve staking, fence installation, material staging, excavation, and machinery mobilization. Staging will occur in the City’s parking lot J, adjacent to Lay Park and the Union Street Bridge. Access to the river between Cass and Union streets will be temporarily closed due to safety concerns throughout construction.  Pedestrian detour signage will be installed as needed.  
“FishPass stands as a testament to the unwavering dedication to safeguarding the ecological integrity of the Boardman/Ottaway River. Through this pioneering initiative, fortifying the aquatic ecosystem against invasive species will ensure the protection and preservation of the river. We extend our gratitude to our numerous partners for their invaluable contributions to this transformative endeavor, and eagerly anticipate its commencement," stated Traverse City Mayor Amy Shamroe.

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