REPUBLIC, Mich. (WJMN) – The Republic Dam Modification Project will move forward working with EGLE through the permitting process.

James Brennan, secretary of the Michigamme River Basin water resource improvement tax increment finance authority says they just signed a contract with GEI consultants to work on the permitting process.

“The permitting is three steps with EGLE, one is 30 percent of the permitting process with the guidance of them, we have a channel next to the dam that’s been closed off, there’s mussels in there they have to go in there and remove the mussels and transplant them somewhere else, they have to do sonar for where the bedrock is, we have to check the silt,” said Brennan. “The wetlands down below the dam, there’s a small wetland area, that has to be checked out. And then we get up to 60 percent when they get to a certain part, 60 percent and then it goes to 100 percent so there’s three steps to get through EGLE with the guidance of EGLE working with GEI consultants.”

Downstream view of the Republic Dam.

The goal of the project is to remove the old dam and build a spillway to ensure the levels of the basins.

“Once the project is completed, it will be like a bathtub. The spillway will fill up because the water flows downhill, it’s coming from the watershed the Peshekee, into the Michigamme, the Michigamme feeds the Michigamme River, and once we stabilize this river we can add fish to it,” said Brennan. “It will allow us to stock it with fish and hopefully we can stock it with some more trout and other game fish that used to be in the river all the time that have disappeared because of the instability of the water levels.”

The permitting process must be complete with EGLE before any work can be done to remove the old dam or put in new structures. After they receive approval from EGLE, the work must be completed in 5 years. Brennan says their goal is to complete the project by 2023.

Map of proposed Republic Dam Modification project.

“Our commitment to get this done is by 2023, we have the support of the people with a millage that they passed to help support on the modifications on the spillway on the dam we also have a $100,000 MDARD grant, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, they extended it twice for us to get this project done,” said Brennan. “We have commitments of some of the foundations to give us money once we start the project. We still need grant money to finish this up, dam removal money and fish passage grant money, which we feel really good now that we can get it now that we have support and have money to work with this.”

In 2017, gates on the dam were repaired and the dam was permitted to operate for 5 years. That permit runs out in 2022. Modifying the dam is important for economic development according to Brennan.

“If we lose our river basins the property values will drop over time, that will cost our general fund money, recreation will be ruined,” said Brennan. “We have a beach that if you went down there now, you’re walking in mud to get down to the water because there’s no rain, no nothing, mother nature has not provided us, and boating, fishing, kayaking down the river, the river has been there 140 plus years and we just want to keep it for our future because we’ve moved our town into recreational, we have a campground, we’re developing 92 acres down the river road along the Michigammee river and the basin is very important to our township for the future, since the mines left that’s all we have left is recreation in this town.”

Some considerations for the permitting process include dam safety along with the impact to inland lakes & streams or wetlands, and floodplains.