Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Project Timeline

Spring 2024 - 2027

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.

May 16, 2021 Update

The public should be aware that FishPass construction will begin May 21, 2024, with the installation of site fencing by the contactor Spence Bros., and the US Army Corps of Engineers. As a result, Lot J will be closed, and parking will no longer be accessible through the duration of the project.

Access to Boardman/Ottaway River
The entire south shoreline of the river and any riverwalk features between Cass and Union Street will be closed to the public for the duration of construction. The stairs on the southwest corner, near the Cass Street Bridge, will be closed at the first landing. There will be no access to the docks in this location. The riverwalk and stairs on the north side of the river, near the Union Street Bridge, will remain open during construction. Pedestrian detour signage will be installed.


Access within the Boardman/Ottaway River
The dam safety buoy line will be relocated to upstream of Cass Street Bridge. Dedicated portage points will be at Hull Park on the upstream side and Clinch Park on the downstream side. During construction, a temporary portage point will be near the stairs on the northeast corner of Union St. Bridge. The portage point at American Legion Park will be closed. In 2025, construction work will not permit any portage between Cass and Union Street.

Mobilization and site preparation is anticipated to begin in early June 2024, with heavy construction beginning in July 2024. Access to all businesses and residences will be maintained. If possible, please use alternate routes avoiding this area to reduce congestion, delay, and promote worker safety. 

FishPass is anticipated to be complete in 2027.

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.

Project Timeline
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. 

Project Funding
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.