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  • Friday, March 25, 2016 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    After decades of danger, the Shiatown dam is moving toward removal in 2016.  The Friends of the Shiawassee River have been working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and several stakeholders to restore the Shiawassee River at the site of the former dam, improve the habitat for fish and other wildlife, and enhance recreational opportunities at Shiatown Park.  

    Watch ABC 12 coverage on removal and restoration.

    The Friends of the Shiawassee River recently held an informational meeting to share the current project status and gather public input.  Stakeholders from state and local government, property owners, and paddlers provided input.  After approvals, removal of dam remnants is planned to begin in July, with complete restoration likely by September.  In addition, Shiawassee County is updating their plans for Shiatown Park.  After the river restoration is complete, improvements to the Park will then be possible.


  • Thursday, March 24, 2016 11:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Shiatown Dam has been a community landmark in Shiawassee County for more than a century. Over the years, the structure and its adjacent millpond have served a variety of functions, from power generation to recreation to wildlife habitat. While these uses have evolved over time, the site has remained a well-known feature in Shiawassee County. As with any building or structure, time took its toll on the Shiatown Dam. The structure has not produced power or been regularly maintained for over 50 years. In 2010, the dam was ordered to be repaired or removed, and work began in the region to resolve the challenges this presented, to develop plans, and identify funding to bring this community vision to fruition.  

    A dam was first built at this site in 1840 and replaced with a hydroelectric dam in 1904. Consumer’s Power Company acquired the dam in 1911, raised it height and expanded the impoundement; they operated the dam as a power facility until 1955. Ownership then passed to Shiawassee and Vernon Townships.

    Shiawassee County became the owner of the damsite in 1965 and operated the dam as a recreational facility.  During this time, the impoundment hosted hydroplane races, and the County Park was more fully developed. 

    From 1973 to 1976 improvements were made to the dam and spillway and new wooden gates were added to control impoundment levels.  In 1974 there was a flood event that nearly caused the failure of the dam embankment.  In 1981, another flood event almost resulted in the overtopping of the dam.  In 1985 and 1986, the County removed the wooden gates to reduce the amount of water storage behind the dam and the level of the impoundment dropped.

    The County sold the dam as real property to a hydroelectric power company in 1986, and four separate companies tried, unsuccessfully, to find an economically feasible use for the dam.  During the next 13 years of private ownership, there is no documentation of any dam maintenance.

    In 1988, a 13 year-old boy drowned at the dam; it was reportedly the fifth drowning in 20 years.

    In 1999, the dam reverted to the State of Michigan for failure to pay property taxes.

    Another flood event in 2001 again almost resulted in the failure of the dam.  A 75-foot trench was dug as an emergency spillway and sandbags were added on the embankment. Subsequently, the Department of Natural Resources spends $68,000 for repairs.

    The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality conducted a safety inspection in 2010 and concluded that the dam was in poor condition and could become structurally unstable and fail.  It ordered the owner of the dam, the State of Michigan, to undertake immediate repairs and/or begin removal.

    In 2011, the State of Michigan asked the Friends of the Shiawassee River to become the local liaison to help assess options for dam removal and restoration of the site.

    In May 2012, a 12 year-old girl drowned in the area below the dam apron in an 18-foot deep scour hole.

    In the fall of 2012 partial dam removal began with funds from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Phase I). The dam was lowered to within 4 feet of the river bed elevation, and the hole below the dam apron was partially filled with concrete rubble.  The enlarged opening and lowered profile of the dam was enough to permit run-of-the river flow levels even at flood stage, thus reducing the risk of dam failure.

    In 2013, the Friends of the Shiawassee River received additional funding from the Michigan DNR and the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network to further assess the site, do additional work to minimize safety concerns, restore fish passage, and begin restoration of the river at the damsite (Phase II). 

    In 2014, An advisory group of local officials was established to work with the Friends of the Shiawassee River, state representatives, and consulting engineers to review and develop plans for dam removal, river restoration, and park improvements.  Shiawassee County Commission grants approval for access to the site and endorses dam removal project.  Meetings held with surrounding property owners. 

    In 2015, an Aquatic Habitat Restoration Grant was awarded from the Michigan DNR to assist in rehabilitation of the river at the site of the Shiatown dam (Phase III).  Plans for removal (Phase II) were revised to better restore the river and support healthy fish populations and other habitat improvements. 

    In the fall of 2015, the stakeholders group met with consulting engineers and state officials to design a comprehensive project.  In addition, Shiawassee County began an update of its County Parks Plan and improvements were proposed for Shiatown Park that would take advantage of the recreational opportunities made possible by dam removal and site restoration. 


  • Thursday, March 10, 2016 11:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A water trail for the length of the Shiawassee? We're exploring the possibility!

    On Tuesday, March 8th, over a dozen people gathered at Baker College of Owosso to meet with Barbara Nelson-Jameson (a trails planner with the National Park Service) to discuss forming a coalition for the purpose of seeking National Water Trail designation for the Shiawassee River from its headwaters in Holly to the Shiawassee Flats within the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw Township. 


  • Monday, February 22, 2016 11:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you wanted to revel in all the good things happening on the Shiawassee River, the place to be was the Wrought Iron Grill in Owosso this past Tuesday night. The Friends welcomed new staff and board member, celebrated exceptional volunteers and their 20 year history of Caring, Sharing and Enjoying the Shiawassee River.

    2016_Annual_Meeting.jpg

    The Friends welcomed Lance Omer to the board and introduced Lauri Elbing, our new executive director, and Sarah Baker, our new Stream Team Coordinator, to the membership.  We also welcomed Tiffany Cooper, a digital media design intern from Baker College.  The Friends are building the necessary capacity to strengthen and expand the reach of the programs and the mission that has guided us for these past 20 years.  

    Two board members stepped down, but pledged to stay involved with the Friends: Larry Johnson of Owosso and Nancy Krause of Chesaning. For each of us it is a labor of love, and we are grateful for their dedication and service to the Friends and to our watershed.


  • Monday, February 22, 2016 10:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Village of Byron's Downtown Development Authority has embraced the Shiawassee River as a recreational and economic asset.  With the help of the Friends of the Shiawassee River, and with funding from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN), a canoe/kayak launch has been built adjacent to downtown Byron.

    IMG_7076web.jpg

    The Shiawassee River gains size as it flow through Byron, where the south branch joins the main stem just upstream from the Village. The stretch from Byron to the Walnut Hills Campground is one of the more wild and beautiful sections of the river. Recently volunteers cleared downed trees from this area of the river, further improving access and use of this natural resource.

    The new launch is just south of the Maple Street (Bath Road) bridge and is tucked away behind several ball diamonds.  The land was donated by the Byron Area School District, which has also recognized the value of the Shiawassee River.  A nature trail has been developed near the new launch site, and the Friends of the Shiawassee River has been working with local classes to conduct volunteer water quality sampling.

    The launch was built by several volunteers, most notably Rob Vandermark and Ric Crawford who donated their time and use of equipment.  Friends member Phil Hathaway led up the effort, using a design that has been successfully installed in several other public parks in Shiawassee County. “We’re excited that the Village of Byron is working with these great partners to formalize this site along the beautiful Shiawassee River”, said Mike Kelly of the Conservation Fund, the coordinator of Saginaw Bay WIN, the project funder.


  • Saturday, December 12, 2015 10:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The US Environmental Protection Agency has been working diligently to clean up the Thanksgiving Day oil spill in the Shiawassee watershed (see previous post below). The size of the "Wade Road Oil Spill" is now estimated to be between 500-1000 gallons (up from an initial estimate of 300 gallons of oil).  The source of the spill has been identified and the responsible party has assumed all costs for the emergency response and cleanup. As of Thursday, December 3rd, these costs are more than $80,000.  The the US Department of Environmental Protection is overseeing the cleanup, which will continue until they determine it to be complete.

    OverviewMap-WadeRoadOilSpill_2.jpg

    A contract crew of 25 people have been cleaning up about 3 miles of the Miner Drain in Owosso Township between Mason and King Roads. The waterway connects to the State Road Drain and then the Shiawassee River; however the oil was contained before it reached the River.  Clean-up has consisted of using absorbent booms and a vacuum truck to remove oil from the waterway, as well as an excavator to remove contaminated soil. Oiled vegetation has been removed by equipment and hand from several miles of the drain.  

    The Friends of the Shiawassee River thank all the workers who given up their holiday weekend to protect the Shiawassee River.  We extend our appreciation to the local, state, and federal officials who have worked to contain this spill, learn about the source of the pollution to prevent a re-occurrence, and restore this portion of the Shiawassee watershed.


  • Monday, December 07, 2015 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Friends Commend Quick Action by Local Hunter to Report Oil Spill in Shiawassee County Drain and Prompt Response by Local, State and Federal Government to Contain and Cleanup the Spill.


    A Thanksgiving Day oil spill has been contained and clean-up is now underway. An estimated 300 gallons of oil were found by a hunter in the State Road Drain above Wilkinson Road west of Owosso. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality authorities were notified and Owosso Township Fire Department with help from Shiawassee County Emergency Management were able to stop the flow of oil before it reached the Shiawassee River. The US Environmental Protection Agency is now completing a clean-up. The source of the spill has not yet been identified. The Friends regularly survey the State Road drain below the site of the spill; the most recent Stream Team sampling gave the quality of the tributary an "excellent" rating. Thank you to the observant hunter and the many public officials who worked, and continue to work, to protect the environment of the Shiawassee River. 

    Early reporting led to the successful response to contain the oil before it got very far downstream. We commend and encourage such vigilance to protect our resources. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality "PEAS" (Pollution Emergency Alert System) is a 24 hour hotline for reporting spills or polluting releases.  In case of environmental emergency you can call 800-292-4706 and help protect our Shiawassee River. 


  • Tuesday, September 22, 2015 11:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On a sunny day – the last day of summer - the Friends of the Shiawassee River (Friends) gathered along our river in downtown Owosso to announce a new initiative that will help ramp up and sustain the Friends’ efforts to clean and monitor stretches of our waterway as well as promote all the fun to be had out on our river. The Adopt-A-River program garners sponsorships from local businesses and organizations in the form of funding and volunteer opportunities.  Neighborhood Cinema Group Cinema (NCG), a chain of movie theaters founded and headquartered in Owosso, Michigan, made the first commitment to the Adopt-a-River program.

    "I’m so glad Brad Kirkland approached me to be a part of the Adopt-A-River program.  I was born and raised here in Owosso, and grew up fishing and kayaking on this river, playing football down that way, going to the Curwood Festival," said Jeff Geiger, president of NCG Cinemas. "We are proud to be able to be a part of this program and help the Friends.  The hard work is done by all the people involved in this organization and we’re happy to help support that work."

    Josh Adams, director of Owosso Main Street and a Friends of the Shiawassee River board member, thanked NCG Cinemas and the Geiger family for stepping up and leading the way on the Adopt-A-River program. “Sometimes the river gets overlooked, but a clean river is a key component to a vital downtown,” said Adams.  “Not only for the sights and sounds, but for the recreational opportunities it offers residents and visitors.  At Main Street we have a saying, ‘Together we can do more’ and I think that is the important part of the Adopt-A-River Program. It creates an opportunity for the community to come together around one of our community’s treasures.”

    “On behalf of the Friends of the Shiawassee board and membership, I want to thank Jeff Geiger and the whole NCG family for this generous gift,” said Lauri Elbing, executive director of the Friends of the Shiawassee River. “Building on the Friends’ suite of education, cleanup, and water quality monitoring programs, as well as promotion of fishing and kayaking, NCG’s commitment -- and the others that follow -- will help unleash the potential of our mission and activities.  Our Shiawassee River is a little piece of up-north right here in our back yard.”

    Business can become an Adopt-A-River sponsor for a commitment of $2,000 for two years ($4,000 total).  Non-profit organizations or service clubs can also become a sponsor for $1,000 for two years ($2,000 total) with a commitment to help maintain their stretch. 

    For more information about the Friends of the Shiawassee River or the Adopt-A-River, contact the Friends’ Executive Director Lauri Elbing at (989)723-9062, info@shiawasseeriver.org.  You can also visitwww.shiawasseeriver.org to sign up for our newsletters and LIKE the Friends on Facebook.  You may also invite Lauri Elbing to be a guest speaker at your event to help Care, Share and Enjoy our Shiawassee River.


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Contact Us:

Phone: (989) 723-9062
Email: info@shiawasseeriver.org

Mailing Address:

Friends of the Shiawassee River
PO Box 402
Owosso, MI  48867

Office Address:

Friends of the Shiawassee River
538 N Shiawassee Street
Corunna, MI  48817

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