I wrote a rather angry piece the other night entitled "Spare Us the Excuses" about the ongoing debacle concerning dam removal on the Pigeon River. I've learned not to post or publish when I'm angry. I- we- have reasons for anger however.
I grew up on the border of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, ten miles from the river itself. The Pigeon River Country is a vast wildland, the home to our only elk herd (1000 head, give or take), an enormous playground for hikers, bikers, paddlers, campers, horseback riders, hunters, anglers and bird watchers. It's not wilderness, just a big usable wild playground, dotted with lakes, campgrounds and traced through with hiking and riding trails (no motor vehicles) and filled with wildlife. Right through the center of this runs the Pigeon River itself, a gem of a trout stream. I've kayaked almost the entire length of this river- it is one of the fastest, most difficult rivers in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. It is beautiful wild country.
In 2008 the Song of the Morning Ranch accidentally discharged tons of sediment from the only dam on the river- the only dam in the state not directly supervised by the state. It killed thousands of fish, has negatively impacted an already damaged local economy, and the river still has yet to come back. This would be bad enough, an embarrassment to a state that doesn't need any, not in an economy that depends on recreational dollars. But this is the third time it has happened. Three (3) times. Three. Just making sure every one caught that point.
After a judge ruled that the dam must be removed there is talk that the state may compromise with Song of the Morning Ranch (a yoga retreat) and Golden Lotus, the owner, on the exact extent of removal. There is talk of the dam structures being left in place and of possible continued negative impacts on the river.
I haven't examined the paperwork, I'm not an engineer, and I don't pretend to know environmental or private property law. So here's what I'll say, what I want for the Pigeon. (We locals simply call it "the Pigeon" when referring to the river and sometimes to the whole region.)
I have seen the aftermath of the last two discharges and the resultant bad effects on the river, the fish, and the local economy. No private entity should have this kind of ability to negatively impact a public resource, whether intentionally or through negligence. It's time for the dam to go, once and for all. I can't speak to the proposed possibility of parts of the dam structures being left in place, but I do know this- Michigan residents and anglers want to see this dam gone. I would like to see the impoundment completely removed, the river returned to a completely natural flow, with zero (0), ZERO possibility of future discharges. Song of the Morning has had all the opportunity to address the situation and 27 years to get its act together and take care of this. We don't need excuses, and we don't need half-measures that don't resolve this once and for all, or that leave possibility of future discharges.
We'd like our river back.