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Pucker Street Dam

Pucker Street Dam [Click here to view full size picture]
Pucker Street Dam

Concept Plan (Click link to download. You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to open this file.  It is free and can be downloaded here)  The concept plan shows parcel lines with street numbers to help identify property owners. 


Overview Of Pucker Street Dam Removal

The City of Niles is working with partners to restore the Dowagiac River to a free flowing river by removing the Pucker Street Dam.  The Potawatomi Resource Conservation & Development Council and several partner organizations completed the St. Joseph River Watershed Fish Migration Barrier Inventory in 2011 funded by USFWS which ranks the Pucker Street Dam as the highest priority dam in the entire watershed for removal.  Pucker Street Dam is located only about 3 miles from the confluence with the St. Joseph River and is responsible for closing off almost the entire Dowagiac River Watershed and all of its tributaries (159 miles) to the St. Joseph River.   Coldwater streams with a high gradient are rare in southern Michigan. Removal of the Pucker Street Dam will restore approximately 2 miles of this high gradient habitat immediately upstream of the dam.   The Pucker Street Dam currently blocks the upstream migrations of fish species such as steelhead, Chinook salmon, coho salmon, brown trout, white suckers, and walleye to more than 159 miles of main stem and tributary habitat in the Dowagiac. The Dowagiac River is an incredible asset for southwest Michigan with even more potential once the river is restored to a free flowing condition. 


Dowagiac River Restoration – Pucker Street Dam Removal Presentation

Map of Pucker Street Dam Project Location in Michigan

Project Site Location Map

Aerial Photo of Pucker Street Dam
Map of Wetlands to be Reconnected with Dam Removal
Cross Section of Dam Area (shows high gradient of the river in this section)

History of Pucker Street Dam

Photos - Current and Histrorical 

Benefits of Pucker Street Dam Removal

Economic  Recent studies and investigations indicate that restoring the dam for hydro-electric power generation is not feasible.  Further, in 2013 after an inspection, MDEQ rated the dam as a significant hazard. MDEQ is willing to hold off on requiring repairs if the City moves forward with removal efforts.  If the dam remains, repairs, liability and management will continue to significantly burden the City with financial obligations and staff resources. 


Ecological The Dowagiac River, because of the unique glacial geology and limited urban development in the watershed, is a large cold water river.  In southern Michigan, there is no comparable cold water river system of this size and with the potential for a high-quality cold water fishery. Removing Pucker Street Dam will benefit fish and other aquatic wildlife habitat and improve hydrologic conditions and water quality.


Social The Pucker Street Dam is a safety hazard for recreational users and its removal will improve safety for many users (anglers, kayakers, canoeists and tubers) and offer improved recreational opportunities. The project will also help the City of Niles dismantle a structure that served a useful purpose at one time, but now has become an eyesore, liability and a nuisance for management.


Partnerships    There is great momentum to restore the Dowagiac River system.  A significant channel restoration and floodplain reconnection project was completed upstream at Dodd Park.    The Pucker Street Dam removal is a critical component of restoring this river system.

 Up Stream photo of Pucker Street Dam

Project Objectives

- Remove the Pucker Street dam to provide ecosystem restoration that eliminates habitat fragmentation, creates fish passage, and allows for connectivity in a system that supports ecologically diverse habitats upstream and downstream of the site.

- Restore the physical and biological processes to reference status, or better, of the existing conditions in the watershed.

- Remove an unsafe and deteriorating structure.

- Contribute to the overall goal of expanding and enhancing a unique and popular large cold water fishery in southern Michigan.

- Ensure public access for fishing and paddling/boating is improved.


Dam Removal Process Update
The data collection phase has been completed. The concept development phase is completed..


Data Collection: The depth of refusal to find the original stream channel location, topographical survey, hazardous material investigation of the building, sediment sampling and soil borings are complete.  The volume of sediment is more than expected and original channel depth and location will have more impact on the upstream Pucker Street bridge than anticipated.  Additional data on wetlands and endangered species was conducted Summer 2016.


Concept Design Development:  This phase is complete.  This step has involved landowners and the public. 


Final Design/Obtain NEPA and SHPO approvals/Obtain Permits/Develop Bid Documents  This phase is in process. 


Dam Removal and River Restoration: Dredge and manage sediment, sculpt river channel, stabilize bridge structure, build a coffer dam and demolish dam, stabilize river channel were needed and plant banks /riparian areas.


Monitor Results:  There are plans to monitor the stream channel and fish populations to ensure the project objectives are met.

Funding Update

The City of Niles is applying to many sources to help fund the dam removal and river restoration project. 
Grants awarded to date:

2013 Michigan Department of Natural Resources - Aquatic Habitat -$200,000

FY 2014 US Fish & Wildlife Service Fish Passage - $200,000

2014 National Fish & Wildlife Foundation - Sustain our Great Lakes - $250,000

2014 Great Lakes Fishery Trust - $400,000

2014 Michigan Department of Natural Resources - Dam Management – $90,750

FY 2015 US Fish & Wildlife Service Fish Passage - $300,000

MDNR Dam Management (additional) - $100,000

FY2017 Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Restoration Act - $166,115.94


In the News

Four DNR Dam Management Grant Program recipients to share $350,000

This page last updated on 10/26/2018.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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