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HomeOutdoorsRoscommon OutdoorsThe Tittabawassee River flows freely after 70 years

The Tittabawassee River flows freely after 70 years

new spanning culvert
A full-span arch culvert now stands at the site of the former dam. It enables the property owner to access hunting land on the opposite side of the river and allows wild trout to reach upstream habitat for refuge and spawning. ~Courtesy photo

ROSCOMMON COUNTY – A private dam was removed from the cold-water tributary in southeastern Roscommon County. This is allowing the Tittabawassee River to flow freely for the first time in 70 years.

The dam was built in the 1950s to create an upstream pond and serve as a bridge to forestland on the south side of the river. The Kreckman family bought the property as a hunting camp in the 1990s. They drained the pond by removing the dam’s wooden stopboards but left the sizable concrete and steel structure in place as a bridge to access property opposite the homestead.

The West Branch Tittabawassee River is flowing freely for the first time in 70 years after a private dam was removed from the cold-water tributary in southeastern Roscommon County this summer.

Even without its stopboards, the dam still slowed the river upstream, contributing to rising water temperatures and degrading habitat for trout and other river life. On the downstream side of the dam, a 2-foot vertical spillway significantly increased water flow, eroding sediment into the river and preventing the migration of trout and other fish species.

former dam
The former concrete and steel dam impounded water on the West Branch Tittabawassee River for 70 years before it was removed this summer and replaced with an aluminum culvert, restoring habitat for native trout and other river life. ~Courtesy photo

Josh Leisen is Senior Project Manager for Huron Pines, the nonprofit conservation organization which managed the project. He said the landowner reached out to the organization for financial help and expertise in taking out the dam and restoring the river.

“Mr. Kreckman read about a similar dam removal we completed on the Middle Branch Cedar River (Clare County) in 2019 which prompted him to call us, and we agreed his project was worth pursuing,” Leisen said. “The Kreckmans are a family of anglers who understand the negative impacts of the dam and we were eager to work together for the benefit of the river.”

Demolition and removal of the dam with heavy machinery occurred in mid-July. Contractors then built concrete footers, onto which they set a 30-foot-long box culvert as a bridge to the south side of the Kreckman property. This bottomless structure is designed and installed in a way that allows the river to flow naturally through the site and preserves the native gravel streambed underneath it. The entire project took about three months to complete.

Removing the dam reconnected 6.2 miles of stream habitat and restored the natural movement of nutrients and fish through the river system, including brook, brown and rainbow trout.

“The upper part of the Tittabawassee River Watershed has several high quality, cold-water trout streams that are in really good condition, and the West Branch is one of the best in the bunch,” Leisen said. “By removing the dam voluntarily, the Kreckmans have helped make this river even better.”

dam demo
Contractors use heavy equipment to demolish and remove the dam structure in July 2022. ~Courtesy photo

“I’ve always thought of ourselves as caretakers of the river,” said landowner Todd Kreckman. “We knew the dam was not doing any good for the river and I wasn’t willing to put it off onto the next generation. What I didn’t expect was the amount of sudden and positive change — we’re seeing rainbow trout now that we haven’t seen in many years and the river is absolutely crystal clear.”

Total project cost was approximately $350,000.

This project was supported by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Fish Habitat Grant Program, a contribution from the landowner, Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, the Saginaw Bay Watershed Restoration Fund of the Bay Area Community Foundation, and Walters Family Foundation. Engineering was provided by Huron Engineering and Surveying, Inc. Contracting was by Jordan Intercoastal, LLC.

Huron Pines

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