In need of repair

Operation of Republic Dam faces stumbling block

The Michigamme River Basin Authority is working to raise $25,000 to cover the cost of repairing the three lift gates that were removed from the Republic Dam in the fall. The MRBA has been granted a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permit to operate the structure and has solidified a deal to purchase the property from the current owner for $50,000. (Journal file photo)


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — The Republic Dam could be up and running in time for the Republic Sportsman’s Club’s 28th annual Fishing Derby in July. But first, officials say they need to find funding to complete repairs to make the structure operational.

The Michigamme River Basin Authority is working to raise $25,000 to fix the three steel lift gates that control the water level in the Michigamme River Basin.

The gates were removed recently in anticipation of a possible $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, but the grant application was unsuccessful.

The gates have elicited concern for several years. The current dam owner, Republic Mountain Lake LLC, hired an engineering consultant to inspect the structure and the gates in 2015.

The inspection determined the vertical steel gates to be heavily corroded and in poor condition, according to information from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The gates, or lack of them, could be the only thing standing in the way of maintaining a seasonal water level in the basin that Republic residents and visitors alike have come to expect for decades.

The authority received final authorization from the DEQ to replace the gates and then operate the dam seasonally starting no earlier than June 1 and ending no later than Sept. 1 for five years, according to an April 23 email from Ryan McCone, DEQ Water Resources Unit district supervisor.

Five years is the maximum length state statute allows such permits to be valid, McCone said.

Based on the permit, the allowable water surface elevation in the basin will be capped at 1,492 feet which can be achieved by increasing the impoundment level at a rate of no more than 6 inches per 24-hour period.

The fact that the dam could officially change hands in the next few months is another positive step toward maintaining those water levels, said Jim Brennan, chairman of the authority.

Republic Mountain Lake, which owns several parcels associated with the former Republic Mine, has agreed to sell the dam property to the authority for $50,000 after working out the details of the sale for nearly a year, Brennan said.

“I can’t say enough about Republic Mountain Lake,” Brennan said. “They have already taken care of the cost of removing the gates. This is a good deal. We are not going to get a better deal than this.”

Brennan said the Republic Sportsman’s Club will operate the dam once the gates are back in place.

Anyone with questions or concerns about the dam or efforts to repair the lift gates is asked to call Brennan at 906-362-1430.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.