Argo Dam Updates
The City of Ann Arbor recently completed the construction of a boat bypass channel around Argo Dam in the old Argo millrace. For the first time since 1830, when the channel was built to power mills, this section of river will be free-flowing with the portage removed and transformed into a series of nine drops and pools for people in tubes, rafts, canoes and kayaks to enjoy. Other new features will include a wider and paved Border-to-Border trail section and bridges installed at each end of the millrace. This section of river and trail located in the heart of Ann Arbor will become a recreation destination for our community. We are pleased to announce that more than 500 people took an online survey last week to help us name this new recreation area: Argo Cascades at Argo Canoe Livery.
Over the course of the next eight weeks construction at the site will include: The replacement of the bridge over the entry to the Argo Cascades is anticipated to start in early March. This will include inserting a stop log to prevent the flow of water through the Argo Cascades and will result in its closure until approximately mid-April.
Pedestrians will not have access to this area and will be asked to use an alternate route until the new bridge is installed and the path has reopened.
Detour signs will be installed on site to help direct people around this area. After installation of the new bridge the stop log will be removed to allow for water flow to be reestablished in the Argo Cascades. At this time, the City will complete final adjustments to water flow through the Cascades, followed by asphalt paving of the Border-to-Border trail.
We appreciate the communities’ involvement in naming Argo Cascades and your understanding during the remainder of the construction process. Further updates will follow in the coming weeks including information about a grand opening celebration. To learn more about this project visit: http://www.a2gov.org/government/Pages/ArgoDam.aspx.
Construction is wrapping up for the winter on the Argo project. The pathway will be open for pedestrian and bicycle use during the winter months, and will be paved in the spring of 2012. The majority of landscaping and limestone placement is complete. Final modifications to the headrace features will occur in the spring, along with the enhancements to the current culvert entrance. Look for more updates in the early spring! Check out our latest video featuring construction site images from August 2011 through December 2011. Click here to view.
Construction of the drop features was largely complete earlier this month. The contractor is now in the process of testing and refining the structures as needed. The pedestrian bridge for the downstream end of the headrace is set to arrive this week. The City plans to open the trail for the winter once the bridge is set in place. The trail will remain unpaved until spring.
On Monday, Nov. 21, City Council unanimously approved amending the contract with TSP Environmental to design and construct an improved entrance to the Argo Dam headrace utilizing cost savings realized from DTE's commitment to funding the whitewater features approved as part of the original contract.
Extensive grading has occurred in all areas of the headrace and along the path. Limestone is being delivered and placed in the headrace to create each of the drop structures. Three of the nine limestone drop structures have been grouted and are near completed. The bridge at the end of the tailrace is being manufactured and will be installed by the end of November. The remainder of the drop structures will be in place by mid-November. Finished grading and pavement of the border-to-border trail will occur in the spring of 2012. Click here to view a photo video of the project.
The City received the permit from the State of Michigan on August 23. The Contractor was already mobilized and had begun tree removal along the embankment which was work that did not require a permit to proceed. Since August 23, the Contractor has begun rough grading of the headrace and has completed rough grading for approximately 1/8th of the headrace. The Contractor has also fabricated well points to aid in dewatering the headrace. The City is working with Recreational Engineering out of Colorado on ensuring the local limestone is acceptable for use and expect the stone to begin to arrive on site next week. At that time, construction will begin on the first drop in the headrace. Work is proceeding aggressively and on schedule to be substantially complete by November 15.
In addition to receiving the permit, the City has received correspondence from the State accepting the City’s proposal to deregulate the headrace embankment. This correspondence means that the City will not need to repair the toe drains in the deregulated portion of the embankment which was the premise of the proposed improvements.
Site preparation for the Argo project will be occurring over the next month, including the complete draining of the millrace, and removal of dead trees. Intermittent closures of the trail will occur and trail detour signs will be installed.
Construction will begin this summer on the bypass channel at Argo Dam. This bypass channel will remove the current canoe portage and when complete, will greatly improve the river trip experience. During construction, the Argo headrace channel will be closed, altering livery operations for the 2011 season.
Argo and Gallup Canoe Liveries will be open this season every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Gallup Canoe Livery is open every day while the Argo Livery is open just weekends in the months of May, September and October. During the construction the canoe liveries most popular trip, from Argo Park to Gallup Park, will be offered from either the Argo or Gallup Livery location and will require van transportation from either livery to begin your river trip to a launch site just downstream from the canoe bypass construction. The trip will take approximately 1.5 hours and will not require any boat portage.
The Barton Park to Gallup Park 2.5- hour river trip will not be available this season. This trip offering will resume when the canoe bypass construction is complete. For people wanting a longer river experience this season, th 4-hour Delhi to Argo trip will be offered from the Argo Canoe Livery with additional river trip times added.
The Gallup Livery has canoes, 2-person kayaks, 1-person kayaks, paddleboats and rowboats available to rent and during the river construction will offer stillwater river paddles and the 1.5 hour Argo to Gallup river trip.
The Argo Livery has canoes, 2-person kayaks, and 1-person kayaks available to rent and this season will be offering stillwater river paddles, the 1.5-hour Argo to Gallup river trip, the 4-hour Delhi to Argo river trip and the 6-hour Dexter to Argo river trip. Visit the website www.a2gov.org/canoe for further details.
Work on the design and construction of a by-pass channel in the Argo Dam headrace and white water amenities is progressing. Below is the status of a few key items:
1. A permit was submitted to the State on March 7th and is under review. The State has 90 days to complete the review and approve the project.
2. A project team consisting of City staff and the design/construction team are meeting every two weeks to monitor progress.
3. The tentative schedule has construction commencing in June.
4. Substantial completion of the project is scheduled for late October.
5. DTE has granted permission to the contractor to stage on and gain access through their site.
On Nov. 15, the Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution awarding a contract to TSP Environmental to design and construct a by-pass channel in the Argo Dam headrace and include the addition of white water amenities. The resolution was approved by a vote of 10 – 1.
On Nov. 8, the Ann Arbor City Council was given presentations by both City staff and the team of TSP/Beckett and Raeder/Recreation Engineering on the proposal to reconstruct the headrace.
IMPORTANT: Please click here (PDF) to read a press release about Mill Race closures relating to the ongoing Argo Dam project. Closures relating to this plan begin Tuesday, Sept. 7. To view an alternate route map, click here (PDF).
On Oct. 19, the Park Advisory Commission (PAC) heard public commentary on the topic of Argo Dam and was given presentations by both City staff and the team of TSP/Beckett and Raeder/Recreation Engineering on the proposal to reconstruct the headrace. Ultimately PAC approved a resolution to recommend the selection of TSP Environmental to design and construct a by-pass channel in the Argo Dam headrace and amended it to include the addition of white water amenities. The amendment to include white water amenities was approved by a vote of 7 – 1, and the amended resolution was also approved by a vote of 7 – 1. Click the link below to see the original resolution, and to see the amended and approved resolution. PAC’s resolution is a recommendation to approve the contract and will be shared with and considered by City Council.
A work session on the proposal will be held for City Council on Monday, Nov. 8, at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers. City Council is tentatively scheduled to take action on the proposal on Monday, Nov. 15. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and is held in City Council Chambers.
PAC PowerPoint Reconstruction Recommendation Presentation (PDF)
Beckett and Raeder PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)
Ann Arbor Parks Resolution Presented to PAC 10/19/2010 (PDF)
Amended & Passed Resolution by PAC (PDF)
Argo Dam Stop Log Installation Press Release (PDF)
Argo Dam Headrace Reconstruction Recommendation to PAC Press Release (PDF)
Two proposals were received in response to the RFP #778 to reconstruct Argo headrace and embankment, and three bids were received for ITB #4119 to repair the toe drains. The committee has reviewed the proposals and bids, and on October 1, 2010 interviewed the team of TSP/Beckett and Raeder/Recreation Engineering and Design on their proposal to reconstruct the headrace. The proposed work plan would remove the canoe portage, improve the path accessibility and resolve the headrace embankment deficiencies identified in the Consent Agreement with the MDNRE. The review committee and the proposer will make a formal presentation on the design at the October 19, 2010 PAC meeting. Download the conceptual design here.
The process of removing dead and dying trees from the embankment is now complete and the trail will no longer be closed during the week.
Per the Consent Agreement with the MDNRE, the stop-log will be re-installed on October 15, 2010. The stop log shuts off flow to the head race and blocks water access for boaters between the impoundment and the head race. The stop log is expected to stay in place until the headrace embankment deficiencies are resolved.
City staff held a pre-proposal meeting at City Hall, followed by a site-visit. You may view or download the presentation, sign-in sheet, and Q & A’s from the meeting by clicking here:
August 16, 2010 Pre-Proposal Meeting (PDF- 2MB)
RFP released for the Argo dam headrace resconstruction. The full RFP can be found on the City’s purchasing webpage (click here). Proposals are due Sept. 15, 2010.
On Tuesday July 20, City staff presented details of the Consent Agreement to the Parks Advisory Commission. You may view or download by clicking here.
Notification for upcoming Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Argo Headrace Embankment Reconstruction. Click here (PDF)
City staff continues to carry out the plan outlined in the Argo Dam consent agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. Currently, the vegetation management plan is in progress. This ongoing and lengthy process, which includes, in part, the careful and necessary removal of identified vegetation from the embankment, will continue through the summer.
Staff presentations to explain the consent agreement and opportunities for public comment will take place at the following city commission meetings:
- Tuesday, July 20, 4 p.m. Park Advisory Commission Meeting — County Administration Building, County Board of Commission public meeting room, 220 N. Main St. Live on CTN 16. Replays*: Sat. 7/24 at 9 a.m.; Mon. 7/26 at 10 a.m.
* Watch this meeting online via CTN Video on Demand. Meetings are usually available as soon as 24 hours after the live meeting.
On April 29, 2010, City of Ann Arbor staff met with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE formerly MDEQ) to negotiate the final terms of a consent agreement related to Argo Dam in Ann Arbor. The agreement was passed by City Council on May 3, 2010, and fully signed by all parties on Thursday, May 6, 2010. The Agreement permits the City to remove the stop log, enabling the headrace to fill and canoe operations to be fully restored for the summer recreation season.
Today, May 12, 2010 City staff removed the stop log reopening the headrace. Although the headrace is open, regular Argo Canoe Livery operations will not resume until water levels decrease to a safe level for canoeing and kayaking. The stop log is scheduled to be put back in place by October 15, 2010.
Gallup Canoe Livery (3000 Fuller Road) is open for still water paddling seven days a week. For more information regarding both Argo and Gallup Canoe liveries, visit
www.a2gov.org/canoe, call (734) 794-6241 or (734) 794-6240.
The City and MDNRE have signed an agreement to address headrace deficiencies.
On April 29, 2010, City staff met with MDNRE to negotiate the final terms of a Consent Agreement. The Agreement was passed by City Council on May 3, 2010 and fully signed by all parties on Thursday May 6, 2010.
The Agreement includes provisions for vegetation management, emergency response and options and timelines for repairing the toe drains on the headrace embankment. In addition, the Agreement permits the City to remove the stop log, enabling the headrace to fill and canoe operations to be fully restored for the summer recreation season. The headrace will be slowly filled over the next several days and will re-open for paddling by May 22, 2010. The stop log will be put back in place in October, 2010 and removed again in May 2011. The Consent Agreement supersedes the MDNRE Dam Safety Order that was issued in August 2009.
Signed consent agreement (pdf)
Argo embankment tree map (pdf)
Final vegetation management plan (pdf)
Triggers for response (pdf)
A draft of the Argo Headrace Embankment Vegetation Management Plan (3-page pdf) has been completed and submitted to the MDNRE.
City staff met with MDNRE regarding Argo Dam. Press release attached here (1-page pdf).
The Argo Headrace Embankment Evaluation Report (5.8 MB pdf) is now available. The evaluation was completed by Soil and Materials Engineers, Inc. (SME). SME's conclusions and recommendations are summarized at the beginning of the report.
Late last week the City of Ann Arbor reached a compromise agreement with the MDEQ relative to its request for a 90 day stay of the MDEQ Order. The compromise agreement is a partial stay. The MDEQ agreed to a 90 day stay of all components of its Order with the exception of stopping the flow from the impoundment to the head race. To comply with the MDEQ Order, City staff installed a stop log on Monday, November 2, 2009. The stop log shuts off flow to the head race. It also blocks water access for canoes, kayaks, etc., between the impoundment and the head race.
The estimated drop in water level in the head race is about three feet, a change that will occur over a period of days. All other actions, including dewatering of the head race, are stayed for 90 days. The stay will allow further discussions between the City and the MDEQ.
The piezometer data collection is now complete and Stantec, the engineering firm hired to perform the work, is writing a report on the findings. When final, the report will be posted on the webpage.
On October 5, 2009, the City of Ann Arbor formally filed an appeal to the MDEQ Order. Outside legal counsel has been retained to work on the contested case. The City’s intent is to negotiate with MDEQ to reach a common understanding, course of action, and timeline for addressing the headrace deficiencies that is acceptable to both parties.
On October 19, 2009, City Council considered a resolution pertaining to Argo Dam. The resolution was sponsored by Council members Marcia Higgins, Stephen Rapundalo and Sandi Smith. After deliberation, Council voted 7-0 to table the resolution.
On September 24, 2009, staff from Public Services (Sue McCormick, Sumedh Bahl, Molly Wade) and Community Services (Jayne Miller, Colin Smith) met with staff from the MDEQ’s Dam Safety Unit (Byron Lane, Jim Hayes) to discuss the Argo Dam Order issued to Ann Arbor in August 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and receive clarification on the technical merits of the Order and the feasibility of timing of the required actions.
- MDEQ stated that the flow to the headrace must shut off by November 1, 2009, with dewatering to begin immediately thereafter. MDEQ ordered this because they think that shutting the flow and dewatering the headrace will remove most of the threat to the embankment. However, MDEQ asserted there is a small chance that flow from the Argo impoundment could be impacting the embankment and as such, subsequent to dewatering, the City must monitor the embankment for evidence of seepage. If the seepage ceases to occur (this may take several months, as soils will remain saturated for quite some time), MDEQ will consider the embankment deficiencies to be resolved and no further action will be required. This was would fulfill item #2 in the Order, which states “all work to correct the headrace embankment deficiencies in a manner approved by the LWMD…” However, the MDEQ indicated that the City should not count on this to occur but rather should proceed to evaluate other alternatives to address the embankment deficiencies because the Order requires that effort to be completed by April, 2010.
- In further discussion, the City advised MDEQ that the City has commissioned an evaluation of the embankment stability and has installed piezometers and asked if the MDEQ would consider this new information and reconsider certain provisions of the Order in that light. MDEQ agreed that they would consider the information with an open mind but cautioned against an expectation that would preclude dewatering.
- The MDEQ reiterated that they would be willing to evaluate a design that allows the city to rebuild the headrace and possibly reduce the number of toe drains that must be repaired. If this option is approved, the design must be reviewed and approved by an engineer licensed in Michigan.
- In the short term, MDEQ wants us to evaluate and remove dead and overhanging trees from the embankment. City staff already plan to do this. MDEQ would like to see additional clearing. If the decision is made to keep the headrace, MDEQ will work with the City on a developing a woody vegetation management plan.
- MDEQ indicated that they included item # 4 in the order (item #4 says removal must be complete by 2012) as recognition that in the event the City chooses dam removal as the alternative offered to address the embankment deficiency, they wanted a date certain for dam removal to occur. MDEQ agreed that if the deficiency is addressed in another manner, there is no deadline for a decision on dam removal or any subsequent required schedule for dam removal.
- Based on the number of issues discussed and clarified, MDEQ will send a letter clarifying their intent. The City advised MDEQ we may proceed with an appeal as a place holder to work through the technical issues.
On September 8, 2009, City staff briefed Council during a working session on the technical issues and implications of the recently issued MDEQ Order. In that briefing staff provided an explanation of the issues surrounding the dam and the embankment repairs, outlined the fundamental technical disagreements that City staff has with the MDEQ assumptions and stipulations in the Order, and clarified the safety issues with the headrace embankment and the implications for the canoe liveries should the headrace be dewatered. Click on the links to view a copy of this report and the MDEQ Order.
During the week of September 14, 2009, piezometers were installed along the earthen embankment portion of the dam. A piezometer is an instrument which measures hydraulic pressures. It is a device for measuring water pressure at a certain point in the embankment. Data collected will be used to determine the effect the water in the headrace has on the embankment. This is in response to the MDEQ position that the water in the headrace is seeping into the embankment, and that consequently the embankment is not safe. MDEQ asserts that the toe drains in the embankment, which are designed to remove any water that builds up in the embankment, are failing and therefore the embankment is at risk of liquefying.
On September 24, 2009, City staff will meet with MDEQ to discuss the Order. Staff plans to discuss and receive clarification on the technical merits of the Order and the feasibility of timing of the required actions. In the interim, the City is completing the required permit application to draw down the headrace, as this step is necessary if the City is to meet the MDEQ’s November 1, 2009 deadline for closing off flow to the headrace.
The City is developing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for toe drain repair and an alternative that would remove the canoe portage and reduce the amount of toe drains needing repair. These RFP’s will be used to obtain current cost information.
MDEQ Communication on Argo Dam
Last Update: 12/21/2009