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The Boardman Valley Preservation Society

Advocates for the scenic Boardman River as well as our hydroelectric dams, and beautiful ponds. Along with you, we endeavor to preserve and restore their economic, historic, and social value.

Our Mission Is To Do Good

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing…
After we’ve tried everything else.”

My name is Norbert Tutlis and I have lived in this area since 1976.

Set aside your egos. Bench your agendas. Don’t just politely listen but rather really hear what I say today. What you will be hearing is a sound that started as a murmur and is now becoming a roar. Many mistakes were made in the process of studying what to do with the dams on the Boardman River. What I want you to think about tonight after your work day is over and you are relaxing for the evening is this, How do I feel about my role in destroying the legacy of those who came before me and built these resources I am about to destroy?

Under current ecological thinking, there is no goal nobler than restoring a river’s hydrologic connectivity by removing dams. The place to begin is at Union Street Dam. Over 143 years old and crumbling down according to STS engineers in September of 2008 in a report they did for City of Traverse City. It needs $650,000.00 worth of repairs right now according to Engineering Consultants Technology feasibility study in October, 2008. If work does not begin soon the least to be done is lower Boardman Lake 3 to 5 feet and relieve the inflow to the aged dam.

In spite of Lansing’s findings they have historical significance to us. If the dams are destroyed so do we destroy our memories of those who built them. Destroy a dam; destroy the spirit of those who sacrificed to build it. The oldest dam power house is 116 years young. The youngest is 89 years old. Union Street Dam is 143 years old.

Whose BUS is it we were asked to get on? It was owned by Lansing and the route we followed was carefully selected to get us right here. Worse still is they took the rear view mirror out so we couldn’t see where we had come from.

Over 40 years ago Lansing wanted the dams removed so they could plant Atlantic salmon in the river. Concerned citizens helped them see differently.

Over eight years ago Lansing blocked Traverse City Light & Power from repairing Brown Bridge Dam when they denied their permit to update their dam.

One of the answers missing from this process is what fish does Lansing want to see planted in the Boardman River? Why? Does the United States Fish & Wildlife Agency agree? Does the list include Pickerel, Grayling, and Pike which all disappeared under their watch? Or will it be Steelhead and Salmon which will bring eels, mercury and arsenic with them?

Another answer missing is who really owns the bottomlands. The County Prosecutor gave his opinion, outside attorneys have given their opinions, but opinions are non binding and have not brought finality. Al Schneider, County Prosecutor said “Opinions are not binding and do not bring finality. The only way to bring finality to issue is to join as plaintiffs and defendants and take the issue to circuit court for a ruling.” So to you Mr. Aloia I say, you can ask Nyla Deems as many times as you want , and his answer probably won’t change, but his answer is only an opinion and not final. Other issues which have been dismissed or tabled for later consideration are the impact of dam removal on: Cass Road Bridge, Educational Nature Reserve, Natural River Act, contaminated soils at bottom of ponds, proposed septic treatment plant on Hoch Road, archeological survey of bottomlands, environmental impact statement.

At issue today is dam safety. If you are looking for it you won’t find it. It is part of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. Act 451 of 1994. Section 324.315XX. If Lansing was not so doggedly committed to removing dams there are several pieces of information in the Dam Safety Act which could relieve our pain without increasing the risk to river inhabitants and adjacent businesses. 324.31516 states in part (d) “… The half probable maximum flood criterion may be reduced to not less than the 200-year flood; with proper documentation evidencing a failure of a dam under half probable maximum flood conditions will not cause additional flood damage or loss of life.”

This action on Boardman Dam would allow Grand Traverse County to restore the lake level of Boardman Pond. NO ONE, NOT THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION, NOT ENGINEERS GANNETT & FLEMING, NOT ENGINEERS MEAD & HUNT, NOT ENGINEERS PERRINE & NEWHOFF, NOT ENGINEERING CONSULTANTS TECHNOLOGY, NOT STS ENGINEERS , NOT EVEN OUR OWN MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT HAVE EVER ISSUED A REPORT OR STATED THAT BOARDMAN DAM IS UNSAFE. It would be a good place to clarify another issue. The designation high hazard potential dam is a classification only. IT DOES NOT MEAN THE DAM IS UNSAFE, OR IS ABOUT TO FAIL, OR IS CREATING ANY MORE LIABILITY THAN A low hazard potential dam. THE HIGH HAZARD POTENTIAL DAM CLASSIFICATION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE QUALITY, ABILITY, SAFETY, LIABILITY, OR PROBABILITY OF FAILURE. If a dam is unsafe the MDNR& E is obligated to shut it down and begin Emergency Procedures immediately. If the danger is imminent they must act right now, not three years from now. The problem Boardman Dam has with inflow is a result of a problem with outflow at Brown Bridge Dam because the lower gates are inoperable. The problem with Brown Bridge dam has been known since 1922 and has been monitored and repaired repeatedly without having to lower the pond, until now.

Think of it like this. We begin dying the day we are born. Dams begin failing the day they are created. With proper care both can have a long productive life with help from friends. Dams are high maintenance resources and dams that are used for hydro electricity pay their own way and receive daily attention from the owner/operator and oversight from many agencies.

Something else I can’t understand is why the river is named after a man who came to the area to despoil the virgin pine along its banks. Boardman came in 1847 and sold out in 1851. I for one would like to see this team work on restoring the name of our river which was once the life line of our town to the dominate tribe in the area at the time, “OTTAWA.”

The Boardman River was part of the Saginaw Trail and used by tribes to get to Barker Creek and on to Skegemog Point. On the Samels Brothers farm at Skegemog have been found evidence of early Indian village sites dating back to glacial recession according to MSU archeological diggings in 1967 under Dr. Charles Clelland and Dr. Elizabeth Baldwin.

It doesn’t take much imagination to place those same peoples at locations along sections of the river now under control of our dams.

Why must we never give up our fight to save the dams?

We have been looking at this dam removal process with the thought we won’t have to spend any of our money. We will use free money from others. Be it Federal dollars, grant dollars, seed dollars, there is no such thing as free money. When we worked our way through the process we threw million dollar figures around like it was monopoly money. Not quite real. So we accepted figures in the abstract and forged ahead mentally spending more than we would if it was our taxes paying for it. Problem is it is our tax dollars minus the brokerage fee Washington and Lansing takes out for handling our taxes. Remember this, Washington and Lansing has no funds of their own except those it extracts from us taxpayers. What they do have is our tax dollars they give us back and to top it off they tell us how and on what we can spend them on. So if you take free money out of the equation the question then becomes:


Next question is:


In summation let me offer this practical solution to the ongoing debate about the fate of the dams on the Boardman River.

Take Lansing out of our picture, put the removal process on hold, draft a resolution that all county taxpayers can vote on in November and let us decide the fate of the dams on the Boardman River once and for all. Our elected officials did what they thought was best but forgot we the public they serve deserve to be heard when it involves all of us and we want all of us to decide for ourselves. Their power to decide comes from us and must be kept in check by us. They do not have a blank check from us and some of their recent decisions make it very clear they need more direction and input from us before they decide for themselves what is best for us.

You can always count on politicians to do the right thing — after they have tried everything else.


Please support us with a contribution: The Boardman Valley Preservation Society, P.O. Box 11, Grawn, MI 49637