Looking Ahead to 2022: Altona Dam Removal

Marty Holtgren PHD
Principal Watershed Scientist
Muskegon River Watershed Assembly

The Altona Dam was built in 1868 for a flourmill and sawmill on the Little Muskegon River near the eventual location of the village of Altona. The remnants of the dam are no longer used and are problematic to the health of the river and community safety. Mecosta County Road Commission owns the dam while Hinton Township owns an adjacent park upstream.

Muskegon River Watershed Assembly started working with partners in 2020 to secure grant funds to initiate the design phase for dam removal and river restoration. Removing the dam will reconnect 15 miles of upstream river channel and 3 miles downstream. Removal will also restore a natural river channel in place of the large scour pool, stabilize adjacent streambanks, and provide access to those wishing to reach the river’s edge, paddle, or fish.

Activities to Date

  • Public meeting hosted by the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly with interested stakeholders on May 4, 2021
  • Two meetings with the Hinton Township Planning Commission
  • Advertisement for design qualifications and bids; selection of Barr Engineering Company for the design phase
  • Survey of the site including upland and in-river channel conditions, and compilation of data collected
  • On-site pre-permit application meeting with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy
  • Development of 30% level design plans for dam removal and river restoration

Anticipated Project Timeline

  • 2020: Fundraising for the design phase and project partner team established
  • 2021: Public meeting held, design firm selected, site survey completed, design initiated and fundraising for construction
  • 2022: Public meeting for feedback on design, complete 100% level design plans, submit state and federal permit applications and secure permits, fundraise for construction
  • 2023-24: Construction phase contingent on fundraising success

Ecological Benefits

  • Restore natural stream channel dimensions and halt the impoundment of sediment and water
  • Restore natural flow including the transport of sand, gravel, instream wood, and nutrients
  • Reconnect river, providing full passage for small-bodied fish, and trout (brook, rainbow, brown)

Best Management Practices

  • Removal of concrete dam and unsafe walking deck
  • Stabilize embankments, exposed soils, and the eroding streambank upstream at the adjacent township park
  • Stream channel establishment for 400’ including adjacent floodplain
  • Grading and sloping of newly established streambanks and floodplain
  • Planting of native tree and shrub seedlings, wildflower, and grass seed mixes to restore disturbed areas

Project Partners

  • Muskegon River Watershed Assembly
  • Conservation Resource Alliance
  • JMB Associates, LLC
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Mecosta County Road Commission
  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy
  • Barr Engineering Company

Funding and Match Sources

  • S. Fish & Wildlife Service – National Fish Passage Program
  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources – Fisheries Habitat Grant Program