Restoration of the Shiawassee River at the existing dam has transformed a deteriorating pile of broken concrete into
naturalized rapids. This transformation has allowed the rapids to become a focal point and key feature of Downtown
Chesaning that provides benefits for local stakeholders and the Village economy, while also restoring the natural
habitat of the Shiawassee River.
Throughout construction, dozens of onlookers watched as thousands of boulders and rocks were strategically placed to
form a naturalized rock ramp. This project has generated a great deal of excitement and optimism throughout the Village
of Chesaning. The river restoration site is surrounded by existing public facilities including Cole Park, the Village
Library, and the offices of the Chesaning Area Chamber of Commerce, each of which provide excellent viewing locations
of the project site. In addition, the rapids are clearly visible from M-57, where over 7,000 drivers pass by each day. The
site is becoming one of Chesaning’s best advertisements. The enhanced aesthetic value provided by the river restoration is
sure to transform Chesaning into an enjoyable waypoint for people taking a rest during their travels.
River restoration dramatically decreased the threats to the M-57 bridge, and also alleviated the water fall undertow that
was a danger to public safety. This undertow has been a source of deaths throughout Village history. Additionally, river
restoration incorporated bank stabilization, which will improve safety for anglers, canoeists, and others who require
public access to the river, while minimizing silting in the Saginaw Bay Watershed.
Restoration of the Shiawassee River has provided a wide range of benefits for fish populations and water quality. Rivers
and streams offer a seamless connection between inland watersheds and the delicate aquatic ecosystems of the Great Lakes,
and it is important that these systems be protected. This project has reestablished the Shiawassee River’s historic
connection with the Saginaw River and Lake Huron by dramatically reopening an estimated 37 miles of upriver habitat. The
removal of the dam barrier also provides an opportunity for several species of fish to regain their historical habitat.
One of Michigan’s greatest gifts is the numerous waterways that flow through our communities providing picturesque
landscapes and a source of economic gain. The Village of Chesaning has demonstrated an excellent example of maximizing
the potential economic benefits of the river by facilitating public access to waterways. The aesthetic and environmental
improvements created by river restoration will result in a significant increase in the number of people who can enjoy
this site. The restoration plan includes features that will provide increased and improved access to the river at
existing fishing sites and those created by restoration. These access points will create more opportunities for the public
to safely enjoy fishing while minimizing overuse of fragile river banks and erosion prone areas.
In addition to providing significant localized benefits, the project has received regional recognition for its impact
within the Saginaw Bay Watershed. The dam was identified during a study as one of 3 major barriers that needed to be
removed to promote health of the entire watershed. As part of US EPA’s Saginaw Bay Area of Concern (AOC), restoration of the
Shiawassee River is a significant goal of the AOC managers. Removal of the Chesaning Dam has contributed to efforts to
"delist" the Saginaw Bay Watershed as an AOC by removing three Beneficial Use Impairments (BUI) at the Chesaning site.
BUIs tackled by this project include the degradation of aesthetics and fish populations as well as the loss of fish and