Though the issue of the Argo Dam has been much-discussed by the Ann Arbor City Council for more than six months, the future of the dam is still in limbo.
In response to concerns about the safety of the dam brought by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in August, city council hired a consulting firm to gather information about the security of the dam. Though MDEQ concluded that the dam either needed to be removed or repaired, the firm’s report found that the dam was safe and did not need repairs.
On Tuesday, the council sent this report to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to receive approval to keep the dam as it is.
Argo Dam was built in 1920 to provide hydroelectricity to Ann Arbor residents. Since then, it has come to benefit residents in other ways, mainly through the use of Argo Pond, the body of water produced by the dam’s blockage.
Several local boating groups, including the Michigan Men’s Club Rowing Team, use the pond, both for competition and for leisure. But, these groups are in danger of losing their venue if the city is forced to implement MDEQ’s recommendation to repair or remove the dam.
In an August letter sent to City Administrator Roger Fraser, officials from MDEQ wrote they were concerned with the dam’s structural integrity, specifically regarding the security of the man-made soil embankment that sits beside the dam itself.
In the letter, MDEQ requested the dam either be repaired or removed by April 2010. In response, the city hired the consulting firm, called Stantec, to gather data on the embankment and its integrity.
Councilmember Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5), said Stantec’s findings suggest that “the dam is in good shape.”
He added that the dam is in no imminent risk of leakage or collapse.
In light of Stantec’s favorable report and the cost to the city of removing the dam, Anglin said the dam is likely to remain in place, though city officials can’t make a decision until they receive a response from the Department of Natural Resources.
With no official word yet, Charley Sullivan, the coach of the Michigan Men’s Club Rowing Team, said he’s still concerned about the fate of Argo Pond and of the implications for the rowing team.
Sullivan said the rowing team receives limited funding from the University because it is not a varsity team, adding that most of the funding for the team’s activities comes from club members themselves.
If the dam is removed and the pond disappears, Sullivan said the team will have to commute to Ford Lake in Ypsilanti, which he fears would increase costs to the point where it could put the team in jeopardy.
“It would make it harder for us to put together a team,” Sullivan said. “We’ll lose guys because of the cost.”
Sullivan acknowledged that the dam’s removal seems unlikely, however, and said if the dam stays, the team can focus on competition rather than costs.
“As long as there’s an Argo Pond there,” he said, “I think that the issues facing our team are only ones of being competitive with people that we need to race against.”