Wightman wins Engineering Merit Award for Pucker Street Dam removal project

Published 11:47 am Thursday, March 16, 2023

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Benton Harbor — The American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan honored Wightman with an Engineering Merit Award for its work on the Pucker Street Dam Removal and Dowagiac River Restoration project for the City of Niles. 

Wightman received one of 13 awards at the Engineering and Surveying Excellence Awards Gala on March 11 at Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The project began in 2014 when Niles officials tasked Wightman with an inspection and assessment of the bridge and deteriorating dam. At the same time, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources sought to remove the dam to allow the passage of brown trout, Chinook salmon, and coho trout on the Dowagiac River.

Upon determining that repairing the dam would be more costly for the city and less beneficial to the region’s social and natural environment, dam removal planning began. Over the course of 6 years, Wightman provided options for restoration, conducted additional studies, and pursued permitting as part of the dam removal team.

 Site preparation and powerhouse removal began in the fall of 2019, followed by the removal of the dam structure and dredging in March 2020. The project featuring a blended active/passive restoration and a new pilot channel and a 40-foot floodplain evacuation was completed in December 2021.

“The removal of dams and restoration of natural environments has become a common and, often, contentious topic these days,” said Matt Davis, President of Wightman. “Prior to beginning the work and throughout the duration of the entire project, there is a vast amount of discussion, planning, and regulatory processes involved in exploring possibilities.

“We appreciate the trust and partnership that the City of Niles placed in Wightman during this 7-year project and are very proud to have been recognized for the collaborative results we achieved together.”

For more information about Wightman, visit https://gowightman.com/.