City of Marshall debates whether to remove 124-year-old dam

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MARSHALL, Mich. — City officials in Marshall are debating whether to repair a 124-year-old hydroelectric dam on the Kalamazoo River or knock it down.

"There’s some leakage through the bottom of the dam," said City Manager Tom Tarkiewicz. "What the council will be looking at is three potential options or maybe more, one being fixing of the earthen embankment, that would entail a draw-down of the impoundment 5 to 8 feet for potentially up to a 6-month period."

Tarkmiewicz said their other options are to build a cofferdam in front of the earthen dam or do a complete river restoration. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has determined that the structure needs significant improvements to remain safe.

"We will be hiring an engineer," said Tarkiewicz. "The council will approve the selection at their next council meeting on the 19th next Monday night and from there the engineer will study those options."

Officials are inviting several engineering firms to submit recommendations and work plans. The city owns and operates the dam, which generates less than one percent of its electric power. City Manager Tom Tarkiewicz says the city council will explore all its options.

"The impoundment has been there for 124 years," said Tarkiewicz. "People are use to having a beautiful reflecting pool there but they have to weigh the costs, the quality of life. And there’s a lot of people in the state of Michigan who would like to get rid of every dam if they could. So they’ll have to weigh all those options before they make a decision."

The river is not a local drinking water source.

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