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The Bruemmerville Dam has been removed and the waters of Silver Creek are flowing unimpeded once again. In need of costly structural repair and on-going maintenance, the dam would have been a burden to county taxpayers, said Matt Payette, Kewaunee County’s Promotions and Recreation Department Director.
Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources’ Municipal Dam Grant Program contributed $400,000 toward the project and the DNR chipped in an additional $26,000 for a lamprey barrier.
Two public informational meetings and one public hearing were held before the County arrived at the decision to utilize the state monies. While the County was not under orders to fix the dam immediately, it would have been a matter of time before mandatory repairs had to be made at taxpayer expense, Payette explained.
“The total cost of those repairs would have been in the half-million dollar range,” Payette said, “so when the opportunity came along to get funding to remove the dam without an impact on the county tax levy and the county taxpayers, we looked at that option pretty seriously…and we ended up applying for that grant and we were successful in obtaining those dollars…
“The dam in place was in poor condition,” Payette continued. “We had an engineering firm—Rice Engineering from Luxemburg—take a look at (the dam) and do an inspection and that inspection noted multiple issues with it, from concrete falling to rebar showing to a cracked abutment wall, a host of issues that were going to need to be fixed or repaired.”
Part of the initial assessment of the impact of the dam’s removal encompassed an extensive survey and study of the site’s floodplain as well as an analysis of the accumulated sediment in the mill pond. The analysis confirmed that there were no dangerous levels of PCBs, lead, mercury, or other pollutants at the site, Payette added.
“Part of the restoration included a channel reconstruction (where) they pulled out the sediment (of the mill pond) to the old existing streambed,” he explained, “then they built the sides up with an encapsulated soil lift…(a type of erosion barrier) to ensure the banks stay where they are…the channel has been reconstructed, all the soil lift is in with the erosion control measures, and the area has been seeded with native plants and grasses so in the spring everything should come alive there…in addition, a small walking path was put in within that mill pond area…about 95% of the work is already done.”
In the spring, the team will come back and plant trees and shrubs in the area, making the creek a colder habitat for higher-quality, game fish, Payette added.
Part of the restoration requires that the installation of a lamprey barrier be finished in the spring of 2013. Lampreys are an invasive species with suction cup-like mouths that parasitize predator fish such as lake trout, thereby creating an imbalance in a waterway’s ecosystem.
Between April and June, the one-foot-high stoplog barrier will be installed to prevent lampreys from swimming upstream. Inserted into the “low-profile” concrete structure, the six-inch-square aluminum stoplogs will allow water to flow through at a fast enough rate while letting desirable species of fish such as northern pike and steelheads--and possibly salmon--swim upstream.
“The lamprey barrier is high enough to keep lampreys from migrating upstream and low enough for desirable species of fish to swim through…water flows through it (and it is not considered) a dam at all.”
Constructed in 1923, the dam replaced an earthen dam and served a grist mill until 1942. “The dam had some historical value to it, but since then, it had no economic value…it did not generate power or serve any sort of a mill,” Payette added.