Mill Pond Dam Overview & Status
Over the past 16 months, Springfield Township and Oakland County have extensively explored options for the Davisburg Mill Pond Dam. Due to the age of the dam and based on information from a 2011 engineering study and 2015 video inspection, the Mill Pond Dam has significant deficiencies and associated safety/liability issues.
A feasibility study was commissioned to identify various alternatives for the dam. The study included two public informational meetings to present preliminary findings and receive public input. The Feasibility Study resulted in eight viable alternatives in two scenarios to either replace or remove the dam. The Township carefully analyzed every alternative based upon several factors including historical significance, effect on safety, water wells, and real estate values, recreational benefits, environmental considerations, and cost. The Township Board ultimately recommended dam removal and restoration of the river corridor. The County concurred in that recommendation.
The project has moved to the next phase which includes preliminary engineering and conceptual park design. The consultant is collecting data to determine how to engineer the stream channel and arch culvert at the Davisburg Road crossing. Concurrently, the consultant will plan the restoration of the river corridor and offer recommendations to enhance the surrounding park properties. The public will be invited to attend outreach meetings later in 2020 to learn more about the project and provide input on conceptual park plans.
Recently, some statements have been made publicly that are factually inaccurate; see below for responses. For more details, see the Fact Sheet and other information and materials provided in the menu tab.
1. Removing the dam would leave the impoundment area stinking and unsightly.
RESPONSE: The study noted that odor would not be a long-term issue under any alternative. The consultant did indicate that soils and organic matter exposed from the impoundment during dewatering may have an odor until dried or revegetated but the drying and revegetation of the soil would occur within a matter of weeks.
2. The only reason the dam is being removed is because there is grant money available, which was not available with the other alternatives.
RESPONSE: Cost and available grant funding were only two of the eight factors noted and constituted only 25% on the total score of each alternative. While it is true that the dam removal alternative is more expensive than some of the others, and grant funding is available for removal but generally not for repair or maintenance activities, the alternative selected was not the most expensive.
3. The Township is creating a snake farm.
RESPONSE: The Township plans to restore the impoundment and, like other wetlands that are part of the Shiawassee River corridor in Springfield Township, the consultants concluded that the impoundment could well-become an ecosystem habitat conducive to fish and wildlife. Just downstream of the dam, the Shiawassee Basin Preserve is known for its globally rare wetland system. These wetlands provide valuable habitat to many threatened and endangered plant and animal species, including the Poweshiek skipperling butterfly and eastern massasauga rattlesnake. These animals may find a home in the restored impoundment area as they have in other Township parks. However, the goal is to create opportunities for passive recreation and nature viewing for human visitors, not to create a snake preserve or farm.
4. The Township can’t disturb the area because there are endangered rattlesnakes.
RESPONSE: The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is listed as a ‘Threatened’ species under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Township has received a Certificate of Inclusion on an Incidental Take Permit issued to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which obligates it to comply with a conservation agreement to implement certain conservation measures for the rattlesnake. The consultants concluded that no significant adverse effects to wildlife would be expected from dam removal. It is possible that some species will be displaced to nearby habitats in the region. However, as stated above, the consultants concluded that the impoundment could well-become an ecosystem habitat conducive to fish and wildlife, including eastern massasauga rattlesnake.
5. Springfield Township has failed to maintain the Mill Pond.
RESPONSE: Springfield Parks and Recreation, along with Oakland County Parks and Recreation, jointly treat the pond for nuisance aquatic weeds, however efforts to maintain the pond have become a “losing battle” over the years. In general, small dams tend to have negative ecological effects on a river system. Water quality is negatively impacted due to low oxygen conditions, nutrient and sediment build-up and proliferation of invasive species. Springfield Township Parks and Recreation had spent a great deal of staff time and funds to maintain the beach area for decades prior to its closure. In 2018, the Springfield Township Park Commission made the decision to close the beach due to infrequent use in recent years and the expense associated with the maintenance. The process of restoring the shoreline is underway.
6. Dam removal would be more expensive than replacement.
RESPONSE: While it is true that the initial cost for dam removal would exceed the cost of replacement, dam replacement would still require ongoing maintenance and repair cost for the lifetime of the dam, and long-term repair and maintenance would likely exceed the cost differential between dam removal and dam replacement. Additionally, total cost for dam removal includes funding to restore and naturalize the stream channel.
7. Dam removal has been stopped by a lawsuit.
RESPONSE: There is a pending lawsuit however no injunction has been issued and the process of preliminary engineering and conceptual park design continues. Springfield Township and Oakland County intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit. We believe that the complaint lacks merit and is premature. The recommendation to remove the dam was not arbitrary but was made after analysis of a tremendous amount of information and a great deal of discussion about each alternative. Legal counsel has advised that the Township and County went well beyond what would be legally required in making their recommendation. A motion to dismiss the complaint was filed on January 22 and a hearing scheduled for March 25.