Corunna dam fails - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Corunna dam fails

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(07/31/12) - For more than a century and a half, the Corunna Dam has been a landmark for the Shiawassee County town. But, after decades of erosion, the dam's future is uncertain. It's hard to win a fight against the forces of nature and the passage of time.

From its humble beginnings, servicing a mill, to a recreation spot for fishing or just watching nature, the continuous pounding of rushing water has finally caused a breach in the center part of the structure.

"On the front side, there has always been a hole, now on the backside, there is a whirlpool. As it progressed, every couple of weeks, it got a lot bigger," says Corunna Superintendent of Public Works Tim Crawford.

The DEQ recently put out an alert regarding the dam's failure, which will eventually mean more water downstream, and less upstream. That may affect boating or fishing, depending on the river level.

Local officials don't expect a complete collapse of the dam.

"If it fails, it would only be a chunk that comes out and not the whole 200 feet, so you would only loose maybe 10 foot, 20 foot. So you would have a little bit of water come through there and everything would try to rush though there," Crawford said.

Plans are to remove wooden planks on the west side of the dam, which will re-direct river water, lower the water level, relieve pressure and slow down the erosion process. Other measures include shoring up a retaining wall where the old mill used to stand.

Beyond that, Corunna officials think if the dam were removed or completely eroded, it would put the river back to its natural state before the dam was created in 1843 to provide power for a local mill.

As far as a long-term fix, that's not in the plans. The DEQ and city of Corunna are in a dispute over land rights and dam ownership. That fight would need to be settled in order to determine who might pay for repairs.

With money tight, the best course of action may be to let Mother Nature take its course.

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