Open house set for Pucker Street Dam removal project

An open house about the Pucker Street Dam removal project is scheduled to take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at the Niles Law Enforcement Complex, which is located at 1600 Silverbrook Ave., in Niles.

The purpose of the open house is to obtain input and comments from the public as part of an environmental assessment on the environmental impacts of the proposed removal of the former hydroelectric dam.

The Niles City Council voted in 2013 to remove the dam after concluding it would be too costly to restore. The project is estimated to cost $3.4 million.

The environmental assessment under consideration will evaluate three proposed actions as pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. These actions are:

• No action: Leave dam in-place, maintain current water level above Pucker Street Dam.

• Dam removal with active restoration: Actions would include removing the dam and associated structures, filling in the spillway and actively constructing restored river/wetland complexes within dewatered pond area.

• Dam removal without active restoration: Actions would include removing the dam and associated structures, filling in the spillway and allow passive/natural processes to establish river channel and associated bottomland wetlands.

Marcy Hamilton, of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, said the environmental assessment would need to return finding of “no significant impact” in order for construction to proceed.

She said the goal is to have the environmental assessment finished by the end of the year or early next year.

To date, the City of Niles has received more than $1.3 million in grant funding for the removal project.

The open house will be hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with the City of Niles, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Wightman & Associates and Inter-Fluve.

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