Pucker Street Dam surcharge money could be returned to ratepayers if project is abandoned

Despite encountering recent unanticipated complications in the ongoing effort to remove the Pucker Street Dam, Niles city officials remain optimistic that the project will move forward.

However, if for some reason it doesn’t, what will happen to the money customers of the city’s electric utility have been paying in the form of a surcharge to help fund the decommissioning of the dam?

Jeff Dunlap, the city’s director of utilities, said the surcharge has to be used for the purpose of decommissioning the dam and restoring the Dowagiac River. It can’t be used for any other purpose.

In order for the surcharge money to be returned to the ratepayers, Dunlap said the city would have to abandon the decommissioning of the dam altogether.

He said that scenario is unlikely, even in light of recent complications.

“All of the granting agencies, all of our partners, which include the state and federal officials, are all confident this project is going to happen,” he said. “But I can’t say that [it will be removed] with 100 percent certainty.”

In May of 2015, the Niles City Council voted to place a surcharge on electric sales in order to help pay for the cost of decommissioning the dam.

Dunlap said the city has collected $598,987.55 from the surcharge as of January. That money, he said, has not been spent and is currently being held in a restricted account.

Earlier this month, city officials discussed a situation concerning a pair of pipelines running below the Dowagiac River near the dam. A project engineer said the pipelines, which carry natural gas, might have to be relocated, but there was a question as to who would have to pay for the cost of relocating them — the pipeline company ANR/TransCanada or the city.

The engineer said the cost might be around $6 million — a cost too great for the city to afford.

Dunlap said the city has received no updates on the pipeline situation and that attorneys on both sides of the table are still talking.

“We haven’t heard anything from them yet,” he said.

Thus far, the city has received $1.35 million in grant funding for the dam’s removal.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $3.4 million.

Dunlap said they are finishing up an environmental assessment of the project now and will be applying for construction permits next month.

Work to remove the dam, he said, is expected to begin in April.

Dowagiac

Retired Dowagiac resident returns to teaching at 80

Cass County

Report finds problem-solving courts help lower recidivism, unemployment rates

Business

Yarn on Front owner shares how she adapted, overcame pandemic squeeze

Dowagiac

DUS graduate raising money for independent film project

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Rotary Club excited to bring ‘welcome’ sign to community

Berrien County

MDHHS extends epidemic order, strengthens mask requirement for children

Buchanan

Buchanan District Library awarded American Library Association grant

Dowagiac

SMC Board of Trustees prepares for Higher Learning Commission reaffirmation visit

Cass County

Cass County votes to engage Kalamazoo studio for Cass County Historic Courthouse services

Berrien County

Buchanan graduate now Berrien County prosecuting attorney

Cass County

Cass County Veterans Affairs Office welcomes new leadership

Edwardsburg

Edwardsburg Chamber of Commerce hosting monthly giveaways

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 770,822 cases, 16,731 deaths

Dowagiac

No danger found following lockdown at DUHS

News

Berrien County Public Defender’s Office to increase staff

Berrien County

Buchanan man named 911 Telecommunicator of the Year

Dowagiac

Dowagiac man arrested for possession of meth

Education

Niles teacher accused of assault pleads not guilty

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Police Log: April 7-13

Berrien County

LMC to host virtual career, program expo for prospective students

Dowagiac

Dowagiac woman to compete in ‘Jeopardy!’ 2021 Tournament of Champions

Business

Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce hosts ribbon-tying ceremonies for two new businesses

Dowagiac

Four arrested in Dowagiac drug search

Berrien County

Niles city, DART consider south county expansion