Booms are still out Wednesday afternoon on the Kalamazoo River above and below the Ceresco Dam. (Photo courtesy: John Grap/The Battle Creek Enquirer)
CERESCO, Mich. (Battle Creek Enquirer) - Enbridge Inc. has purchased the Ceresco Dam and plans to remove nearly half of the structure while adding greenspace along the Kalamazoo River by spring 2014.
More than 20 people attended a community meeting Thursday night at the Ceresco Baptist Church as Enbridge officials unveiled plans for what it called its "Ceresco Dam property redevelopment project." It calls for the addition of river access points, picnic areas and to repurpose the dam's existing buildings into possible public use. Landscaping will also be added along the river where water will be drawn down.
Christopher Haux, senior manager of operations at Enbridge, said about 40 percent of the dam will be removed and there will be canoe and kayak access after completion.
"What tonight is not about is whether or not the Ceresco Dam is going to be removed," said John Sobojinski, director of Enbridge's Michigan Remediation Project. "We're beyond that."
The Canadian-based company was approached by the state Department of Natural Resources earlier this year to purchase the dam as Enbridge began preparations to fulfill an order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for additional dredging throughout the river. In Calhoun County, Enbridge has dredging operations upstream of the Ceresco Dam and the Mill Ponds area in Battle Creek.
It's been years since the dam has produced power and it has been classified by the DNR to have "high hazard potential." Online county parcel records previously showed the dam, built in 1906, has been owned by Ceresco Power and Light since October 1999. Former Battle Creek city commissioner Bill Morris is part of the group that owned the dam.
Enbridge's purchase of the dam was made official Friday.
Emotions ran high as residents who attended the meeting Thursday voiced concerns over the creation of a public area on the north bank of the river, parking spaces, the possibility of littering and non-Ceresco residents visiting the space. Others expressed disapproval of the lack of communication between residents and the involved agencies, while some said they were frustrated to still be dealing with Enbridge three years after the spill.
Michael Schroeder, landscape architect with the Minnesota-based LHB Corp., stressed the renderings that were shown to residents were only early options and that officials wanted to hear from residents before making any final decisions. Part of the goal, he said, was to preserve Ceresco's historical identity and maintain its "authenticity."
"This is a start," Schroeder said. "We start with ideas and the drawings might look really finished, really finite, but it's a concept."
Officials also said no decisions had been made on the future of the Miller's Carpet store, located along the river near the dam, after residents said they heard rumors of it set to be torn down. They also apologized for overnight noise, saying operations during those hours were a "mistake" and have been halted.
The state Department of Environmental Quality has already granted a notch permit to Enbridge and work is expected to begin within the next few weeks. It must still apply for a second permit sometime in November to remove the dam.
Haux said there will be likely be river closures during some of the work.
An Enbridge-operated pipeline burst in the river in 2010, pouring about 1 million gallons of oil and causing what has been called the worst inland spill in U.S. history. Cleanup efforts have cost the company more than $1 billion.
It is currently replacing parts of the pipeline throughout Calhoun County, a move that would deactivate the old Line 6B and more than double the new line's capacity.
The additional dredging operations underway right now are expected to be completed by the end of this year, as outlined by the EPA order.