Paw Paw decides on fix to breached dam

Paw Paw, Briggs Mill Dam
Briggs Mill Dam in Paw Paw, which breached Oct. 15, 2017 following heavy rainfall. (Oct. 30, 2017)


PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Village leaders in Paw Paw have approved spending $225,000 to fix a century-old dam that breached about two weeks ago.

At a special meeting Monday, the Paw Paw Village Council unanimously voted yes on a plan to install an earthen dam that would be dry during most of the year and include an emergency spillway for heavy rain events.

That was among five options presented to the council by Mickey Bittner, an engineer with Wightman & Associates. Some of those were temporary fixes, but the one the council settled on is a long-term solution.

Paw Paw, Briggs Mill Dam
Photo: The plan to fix Briggs Mill Dam in Paw Paw, which breached Oct. 15, 2017 following heavy rainfall. (Oct. 30, 2017)

A portion on the south end of the dam failed on Oct. 15 after one of the largest rain events the area has seen in decades.

The village had a year from the date of the breach to submit a permit application for repair to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Bittner said. He said it should take about 30 days to construct the earthen dam after all permits are approved; it’s not yet clear how long that process may take.

Paw Paw, Briggs Mill Dam
Photo: Construction equipment near Briggs Mill Dam in Paw Paw, which breached Oct. 15, 2017 following heavy rainfall. (Oct. 30, 2017)

Bittner also said the dam needs structural repairs beyond the scope of the immediate repair of the breach. Council members did not act on that.

Some residents who packed the meeting at the Paw Paw Township Hall were worried about the sediment exposed by the low water level at Briggs Pond, a result of the breach. Some were concerned arsenic in the sediment could cause a problem, but the council said its studies show no harm to the environment.

“There is arsenic there,” Roman Plaszczak, the village president, said of the sediment. “But you have to remember that arsenic is a naturally-occurring substance that is present in the soil and in lakes, streams and watersheds throughout the state of Michigan.”

>>App users: Photos of dam breach