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Flint Riverfront Restoration Project addresses messy past, creates cleaner future


July, 2017

A. Solomon

Ed. M. DeHart

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View of Flint River

Flint River

The Hamilton Dam’s days on the Flint River have been numbered since the idea of its removal was first proposed in 2010. The dam is currently considered as one of the most critical high hazard dams in Michigan, and that state has awarded the local county $3.1 million for removal as part of the Flint Riverfront Restoration Project. The project will also address concerns regarding flooding and the existing problem of coal tar lying deep in the riverbed.

From the 1800s through the 1920s, a gasification plant was located just upstream from the Hamilton Dam. Over time, coal tar waste produced through process of turning coal into natural gas seeped into the river and was ingrained into the riverbed. The restoration project, coupled with the flooding concerns, presented an excellent opportunity to clean out the remnants of that era.

The dredging project to remove over 80,000 cubic yards of tar-contaminated muck from the bottom of the river began in early June. Before the actual dredging started, two screens were draped across the river to provide a barrier between the dredge site and the flowing river and trap any particles the dredging might free and send downstream. In addition, the Flint River Watershed Coalition is performing tests downstream to ensure that contaminants are not escaping the dredge site and barrier into clean water.

Flooding concerns were readily met by the director of the Genesee county Parks Commission, Amy McMillan. She said the current condition of the dam permits only two of its six gates to open, limiting its effectiveness during a major rain event. In this state, water rising behind the dam would not be released quickly enough and could flood over the edges of the river. In other words, letting the dam stay would be a higher flooding risk than removing it and deepening this part of the Flint River.

The state and county plan to make the banks of the river softer through the use of natural stones and boulders; which in turn makes it more accessible for recreational use and safer for everyone involved should a serious rain event occur.

The Hamilton Dam, meanwhile, is expected to be removed during the second half of 2017.

  1. Header photo by Michael Rivera via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Broad_Avenue_Memorial_Bridge,_Flint_River_sign.JPG
  2. http://michiganradio.org/post/proposal-remove-hamilton-dam-prompts-flint-river-dredging-project
  3. https://player.fm/series/the-environment-report-1000370/a-proposal-to-remove-the-hamilton-dam-prompts-flint-river-dredging-project
  4. http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2017/05/hamilton_dam_in_flint_river_to.html
  5. http://michiganradio.org/post/flint-river-dredging-project-will-begin-soon


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