Republic Dam supported in resolution

Marquette County Board

The Marquette County Board of Comissioners Tuesday OK’d a letter of support for the Michigamme River Basin Authority’s permitting application to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The authority seeks to replace the Republic Dam’s three gates, which had fallen into a state of disrepair and were removed. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a letter of support for the Republic Dam project that will be sent to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The decision was made Tuesday night, with Commissioner Karen Alholm absent from the meeting.

The Republic Dam project proposes to repair or replace, then reinstall, three steel lift gates that are part of the structure. The Michigamme River Basin Authority has applied for a permit to do so through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Resources Division.

“We’ve been through extensive talks with the Department of Environmental Quality concerning this project,” said John Ulrich, Republic Township supervisor. “The dam gates are in severe disrepair and they have been removed because they leak so bad. We’re trying to install new gates through our tax financing authority for the river basin in the area.”

A major concern for Republic Township residents has been water levels in the Michigamme River Basin.

“Our long-term hope is that we can put in a fixed-crest dam on the river, so that the water level is maintained year-round. This is just the first step in repairing the dam, for us to have time to apply for grants and this sort of thing,” Ulrich said. “We are hoping to keep the water level up for those people who are on the river basin because they feel like their property values have gone down with the water level that has not been kept up for the past year.”

Commissioners expressed their support for the Republic Dam project and the surrounding residents.

“This is a pretty important item to the community of Republic,” Chairman Gerald Corkin said.

Also proposed in the permit application is an annual opening of the dam gates between June 1 and June 15, which would fill the Michigamme River impoundment to a water surface elevation of nearly 1,500 feet. Water levels would then be lowered between Sept. 1 and Sept. 30 annually. This aspect is designed to encourage recreation and facilitate an annual fishing tournament in the area.

“Without a waterway, there wouldn’t be boating or fishing or recreation,” Commissioner Joe Derocha said.

Supporters of the project feel that it will bring recreational and economic benefits to the Republic area.

“(The Republic Dam project is) very important for recreation, stabilization of property values and continued support of economic development in western Marquette County,” Derocha said. “It’s one of the lifebloods of Republic Township and that’s why we’re here talking about this tonight, to hopefully support its efforts.”

The funds for repairing the Republic Dam would not come from Republic Township taxpayers, according to information provided by township officials.

The Michigamme River Basin Authority applied for a grant of $100,000 from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to repair and reinstall the gates of the dam, which would allow the water to return to the level that it was at for 140 years.

The authority was able to apply for the agreement because, in January, the Michigamme River Basin Authority and the Republic Sportsman’s Club entered an agreement to lease the dam from Republic Mountain Lake LLC for $100 annually for five years, with an option to purchase the dam for $50,000. However, if the grant is not received, the lease will be null and void.

The DEQ announced a 20-day public comment period on Feb. 27. People wishing to make written comment on the proposed project permitting can submit them to the DEQ Upper Peninsula District Office at 1504 W. Washington St., Marquette, or online at miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/miwaters/#/external/publicnotice/search. Search for the public notice by location or applicant name and view by clicking the “documents” tab, and click the “add comment” tab to send a comment electronically. A hard copy of the DEQ notice may be requested by calling 906-228-4853.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.