Pucker Street Dam work continues to restore Dowagiac Riverbed, remove dam

Published 4:30 pm Monday, December 7, 2020

In a previous publication of this piece, we reported the Pucker Street Bridge may remain closed until Dec. 11. The bridge is currently open, with construction beneath it completed, according to Jeff Dunlap. The Niles Daily Star regrets the error and is happy to correct it.

NILES — Progress has continued on the Pucker Street Dam removal. Passersby on N. Fifth Street/M-51 can see from the road where the dam once was, now just metal collars seem to remain. Work crews are there most days, and the crane has been a fixture for some time.

The Pucker Street Bridge was closed temporarily as crews worked beneath the bridge just upstream from where the dam used to sit. The work on removing decades and decades of sediment from the riverbed has continued, and the city’s newly purchased property adjacent to the park is in use.

As contractors continue work in the area surrounding Losensky Park, Pucker Street Road was closed for the duration of work being done underneath the bridge, just off of M-51. The bridge leading to Losensky Park, and overlooking where the dams used to reside, is stable, Niles Utilities Manager Jeff Dunlap said.

As the Dowagiac Riverbed is slowly being restored, and the water seems to be running faster these days.

Dunlap addressed concerns of the bridge’s fate, noted on social media over the previous weekend. A crack in the road had been photographed. Dunlap said the crack was there before the dam removal began.

With the 15 feet of sediment removed from the Dowagiac River just north of the location of the dams, the progress is visible on the bridge support beams.

A pink marker is spray-painted onto the supports, and Dunlap said another 8 feet of sediment was to be removed from below that marker.

With the water level down due to the sediment removed, the bridge’s structure could be given proper maintenance at its base.

“The non-engineer in me thinks the river is moving faster,” Dunlap said. “The engineers and river specialists say it just looks like it’s moving faster.”

The riverbed restoration continues as the crews have removed around 15 feet of sediment that settled into the riverbed in the years since the historical Eli Ford Dam and the Pucker Street Dam existed in the same bend of the river.

Further along Pucker Street, as approached by Ullery Road, one can see a new white, gravel path being made from Losensky Park to a field. The field was a part of the purchase the city of Niles approved at a city council meeting on Sept. 28. The 45 acres of land were bought at a cost of $748,000. Part of the acquisition was reasoned that the river’s sediment had to be placed somewhere, and if not on city owned property, costs would accrue as the city would have to purchase wetlands credits to offset the alterations to the environment. This way, the city benefits by being able to strip topsoil from the property for use around the community, and can use the sediment in the area.

The sediment may also be used to help raise Losensky Park as it will become more level through the project.

The entrance for Losensky Park will indeed be moved down Pucker Street, closer to Ullery Road.

“We anticipate that [the temporary entrance to the acquired property] will become the entrance to the park,” Dunlap said. “There will be a separate gate for the house.”

This will help ease traffic concerns, Dunlap said, as exiting Losensky Park has been a cause for concern in the past.

The work on the Pucker Street Dam removal will pause for about three weeks, from mid-December to early January, Dunlap anticipates. The contractors on site will be removing construction equipment for annual maintenance. He anticipates the work to continue after the holidays.