Part of the Net River Dam fails and collapses in southern Baraga County

Several state, county and local officials are at the scene of the Net River Flood State Wildlife Management Area in Baraga County (south of Covington and north of Crystal Falls) to assess the partial failure of the Net River Dam, located at the southern outlet of the Net River flood. The area is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A person visiting the area Wednesday night noticed the washed out area around the dam and berm and contacted the local MNR wildlife office.

“Initial site examination suggests that at some point over the past few days, the Net River Dam experienced a partial failure due to corrosion of the water control structure in the middle of the dam, and it caused a sinkhole to develop,” said Bill Scullon, MNR’s wildlife operations field manager. “The good news is that the embankments upstream and downstream appear to be strong and are currently holding impoundment water as they are designed to.”

Scullon said the Net River Dam is in a remote area of ​​the Upper Peninsula and is considered “low risk,” meaning a failure poses a low risk to public safety, property, and community. environment. The road across the top of the dam is used by several private camp owners to access their property, and MNR staff have already been in contact with some of these owners.

In addition to MRN wildlife and forestry personnel, several organizations are involved or made aware:

  • Inspectors and dam contractors from the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy are determining next steps to reduce ongoing erosion and begin work to properly secure the sinkhole and backfill the impoundment.
  • MNR Parks and Recreation staff provide barricades for public safety, including those who regularly visit the small boat access site at this location.
  • MNR conservation officers and Michigan State Police officers were on hand to help with any safety issues.

There are three bridges downstream from the Net River Dam: two are on Highway 95 and the other is a railroad bridge. Officials do not expect the bridges to be affected, but local authorities including Baraga County Sheriff’s Office, Iron County Sheriff’s Department, Baraga County Emergency Management Department and the Iron County Emergency Management Department have been notified. Authorities at Paint River Dam in Crystal Falls were also alerted; they make room for any additional water that may flow if the dam breaks.

Scullon said the situation is stable and will be monitored for the foreseeable future. MNR’s Wildlife Division conducted a flyover Thursday afternoon to get an aerial view to ensure there are no unforeseen public safety hazards downstream.

He also said the Net River flood is a culturally significant impoundment that is home to a variety of fish and wildlife, and the area has benefited from a habitat restoration partnership. with the Indian community of Keweenaw Bay.

“The situation at the Net River Dam should not be a problem for fish and wildlife in the area,” Scullon said. “The amount of water moving through this structure is normal, and nothing we saw downstream is unusual for what we would expect at this time of year.”

The Net River Dam was inspected in August 2020 and received an acceptable rating.

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