Safer, easier way to portage dam proposed


Area under North Evans bridge currently used for portaging. Submitted photo.

Tecumseh kayakers and canoers soon may have a safer, easier access to the riverfront, but the way forward does come at a price.

On June 17, the Tecumseh City Council heard a presentation from Richard Graham of the Spicer Group about the Lenawee  County Drain Commission’s plan to rehabilitate and restore the dam embankment beneath the Evans Street Dam. Part of his report included a proposal to provide a safer portage connection from the Red Mill Pond to the River Raisin.  The cost to the city for the portage improvements, Graham said, totals $161,000.

The proposal would be part of the larger dam project, which includes a host of repairs to concrete spillways and adding remotely-controlled floodgates. Since 2012, the dam has been under the authority of the Lenawee County Drain Commissioner’s Office. The $1 million rehab plan should start sometime later this summer, according to drain commissioner Jenny Escott, who was at the council meeting.  Most of the project will be paid for by Lenawee County’s ARPA (America’s Rescue Plan Act) funds.

If the city decides to partner on the project, Escott said, the drain commission will need to know within the next 4-6 weeks, when they submit bids for the work.

“We’re going to have to know when we bid it out so we know whether this project is going to be included in the documents,” Escott said. “This project is already partially funded with $925,000 from ARPA funds from the county towards that. We need to get this done. We’ve already had one occasion of an emergency repair and as you all know, when you have to do something in an emergency situation, it costs you three times as much as if you had it planned it out. I think this is an awesome opportunity when we have all these ARPA funds to be able to use them on this. Unfortunately, the kayak portion cannot be paid for through the assessment district because it has nothing to do with the operation of the dam.”

Mayor Jack Baker said, if council favors doing the improvements and creating a dedicated, safe portage area, “this is the ideal time to do it.

“Costs would be much less than if we brought in the contractor another time to work on it,” he said. “If we do it all this year at the same time, while it’s another costly expense, if that’s something that we want to do, I would certainly take a good, long, hard look at doing it at the same time other improvements are being made.”

Baker said he would like to have city staff investigate how the project could be funded, if council decides to move ahead with it, with the caveat that investigating how it could be funded was not an endorsement for the project.

City Manager Dan Swallow told council that staff is looking at grant options that can help with the funding, and he hopes to get feedback from some of the local foundations. Additionally, if council wanted to move forward, there are a few options.

“We do have a reasonable fund balance at this point and certainly this would not be a budget breaker,” Swallow said. “I think it could be reasonably absorbed. The other counter to that, though, is that what other projects we might not do because we spent $160,000 on this. So it’s fair that we need to think about that.”

The $161,000 cost would include steps, fencing, soil stabilization, safety signs and a proposed steel slide rail for canoes and kayaks, similar to one in use in Washtenaw County.

Council voted 7-0 to direct Swallow to proceed with funding options for the proposed project.

“We’ve taken the position that outdoor recreation is a good thing, we want to promote it,” Swallow said. “When you look at it from a tourism standpoint, certainly water sports is growing. I think we’ve been of the opinion that it’s a valuable resource that we should provide access to those who want to canoe or kayak.”


Tecumseh Herald


110 E. Logan St.
P.O. Box 218
Tecumseh, MI 49286

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