April 9, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 83

Wakefield moving forward with dam improvement project

WAKEFIELD — The city of Wakefield is pleased to be moving forward with an improvement project for the dam at the northeast corner of Sunday Lake, which the city has sought to update for several years.

Michael Thill/Daily Globe
Water pours over the dam at Sunday Lake’s northeast corner Monday in Wakefield. The city was recently awarded a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Dam Management Grant to replace the spillway gate. The city estimates that the watershed feeding Sunday Lake includes tens of thousands of acres.

The city was recently awarded a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Dam Management Grant in the amount of $69,300 for the spillway gate replacement.

The city will be responsible for a ten percent local share of the $77,000 total project cost.

The dam management grant was one of six awarded in Michigan for 2013. The MDNR and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality reviewed 23 applications for the $2.35 million in grant funding that was available.

The purpose of the project is to give the city greater control over the outflow of water from the lake. City manager John Siira said the outdated spillway gate that is currently in place has not been used in 20 years.

“This project will be much like an insurance policy,” he said. “We’ll be able to build a capacity for spring runoff by lowering the lake level ahead of time and reduce the possibility of any flooding.”

Siira said lowering the lake level by even a foot could make a big difference in the event of a heavy spring melt.

Flooding in 2002 resulted in around $10 million spent in municipal improvements alone and caused a stretch of U.S. 2 to be closed; the dam update could help to prevent a similar event in the future.

“The benefit to cost ratio for the project is very high,” Siira said. “It’s something we’ve been looking to do for a while now.”

At an April 1 meeting of the city council, GEI Consultants was approved to complete the engineering design. Siira said GEI has assisted the city in all of the project planning to date.

With the engineering design and grant agreement with the MDNR now moving forward, he said he hopes that work on the project could begin as soon as August. This year’s spring melt has been progressing favorably, with below-freezing evening temperatures helping to promote a gradual runoff.

Water from the outflow at the dam travels to Jackson Creek and eventually to Lake Superior by way of the Presque Isle River.

The city estimates that the watershed feeding Sunday Lake includes tens of thousands of acres, with much of that country lying south of town.