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Stories of Impact

Natural Environment

Huron Pines Connects Pristine Northern Michigan Waterways

“Keeping our rivers as healthy and connected as possible is a critical priority. The work we’re doing with the Walters Family Foundation ensures the resiliency of these rivers for generations to come.”

-Lisha Ramsdall, Associate Director, Huron Pines

Grayling, MI (May 2023)If you’ve ever dipped your toe into a sparkling Michigan stream or cast a line in one of our state’s magnificent rivers, you know how unforgettable the experience can be. Memories are made on the banks of these freshwater treasures, and ensuring their sustainability is so important for communities, and the aquatic wildlife that call them home.

For 50 years, Huron Pines has been reconnecting waterways across Northern Michigan. With funding from its latest Walters Family Foundation grant, Huron Pines successfully restored more than 112 miles of coldwater streams, creating a better environmental future for all that inhabit them. The grant funded nearly a dozen stream crossing restoration projects, the design and engineering for two critical dam removal projects and extensive site inventory research for future projects in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.

One memorable milestone was the removal of a dam on the Upper Tittabawasse River. This dam, constructed in 1950, had not been restored for more than 70 years. Dams like these have negative impacts on the rivers and their inhabitants such as increased heat and algae growth, reduced oxygen, erosion, and sediment buildup. Dam failures can also lead to flooding and destruction of property.

Demolition and removal of the dam at Timberland began in July 2022. For months, crews chipped away at the rubble.

Heavy machinery begins to remove the Kreckman dam. Photo courtesy of Huron Pines.Download a high-resolution version of this photo.

After the dam was removed, crews assembled a 30-foot aluminum arch culvert, which provides a new crossing and a bridge to a more sustainable future for the river. Fish can now access more than six miles of quality upstream habitat. Dam removal can have a substantial impact on Michigan’s rivers and help ones like the Tittabawasse River remain high quality coldwater trout streams for generations to come.

Lisha Ramsdall at Huron Pines agrees, noting the environmental benefits of the remarkable river transformation. “It’s pretty incredible. For 70 years this dam had been blocking flow on the Tittabawassee, which is one of the highest quality watersheds feeding into Saginaw Bay. Being able to restore that connectivity and remove the thermal pollution you get from those impounded waters, has a huge impact within the greater watershed.”

Projects like these are important to maintaining the resilient river system we all know and love in Michigan. They eliminate the risk of dam failure and disastrous flooding and provide safe passage for fish and all kinds of river system macroinvertebrates that fish depend on. By investing in the restoration of Michigan's rivers and streams, both Huron Pines and the Walters Family Foundation are helping to preserve these natural treasures for future generations to enjoy.

“The Walters family shares the same values that we have,” says Ramsdall. “They ask the important questions, they come out to visit the sites, they meet the people on the ground who are doing the hard work. Some of these rivers are near and dear to their hearts, and that makes their investment all the more meaningful.”

A new box culvert spans a new free flowing section of the Tittabawasse River. Photo courtesy of Huron PinesDownload a high-resolution version of this photo.