Shiatown Dam near Vernon could be removed this summer

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SHIAWASSEE TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (04/01/16) - A Shiawassee County dam that's been in place - in some form - since 1840 is about to come out. There's a new plan for the Shiatown Dam just outside of Vernon and it will really reshape how the area - and river - is used.

That stretch of the river could become an excellent spot for fishing, kayaking and canoeing - but first, they need to get that dam out of the way.

The organization known as the Friends of the Shiawassee River has lined up just over $300,000 in grants to have the dam demolished and the banks of the river improved to reduce erosion.

Permits to remove the dam have been submitted to the Michigan DEQ. Workers could start to pull it apart in June or July. Portages will become a thing of the past.

"Well certainly it will open it up for canoeing and kayaking. Right now, it's kind of a pain to get around it in a canoe," said Kevin Smith, a member of the Friends of the Shiawassee River.

Once the dam is removed, Shiawassee County officials have plans to run this area into a recreational hotspot.

"Fish, hike, bike, a new one and a half mile trail will be developed around this following the restoration," said Phil Hathaway, of the Shiawassee County Parks Commission.

A big emphasis will be made to attract more people in canoes and kayaks. A new launch will be built in the park.

"That's what I'm excited about because I think everyone's going to love it," Hathaway said.

While there are already picnic grounds, the focus in the improved park will be on the river.

"The best fishing is going to happen after the dam's removed," Hathaway said.

Eventually, a footbridge will be built and the impoundment area will be planted with native prairie grass.

"There are resources and the best thing to do is be patient and watch these things evolve," Hathaway said.

If the dam is removed this summer, then the other improvements will come over the next few years.

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