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Work slated soon to remove Yahara River dam

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 15, 2010
— A cracked and crumbling dam on the Yahara River in northern Rock County is slated to be removed in the next four to six weeks.

The DNR said in a news release last week that the 92-year-old dam is in “very poor condition and is a hazard to public safety and to navigation of the Yahara River.”


The DNR and the River Alliance of Wisconsin have secured about $110,000 in grant money to pay for the dam’s removal, according to the news release.


The dam is owned by Peter Burno under the name Wisconsin Edison Corp.


Burno of Stoughton had resisted the DNR’s efforts to remove the dam, but he applied to abandon the dam in 2007 after losing a court battle.


Large cracks in the dam show signs of movement, the news release states.


The work will involve taking out the concrete part of the 300-foot-long dam and later grading both embankments, the DNR said.


The grading is intended to “restore the area to its pre-settlement conditions. Restoration will include importing topsoil to cover fill areas, seeding and installing erosion mats,”


the DNR said.


The work “will improve the water quality and biological integrity of the Yahara River by making it easier for fish to migrate to upper portions of the river, reducing carp-spawning habitat and enhancing fish habitat,” according to the news release.


The Yahara River flows through the Madison-area lakes before joining the Rock River in Fulton Township, several miles downstream from the Stebbinsville Dam.


The Fulton Dam, downriver from Stebbinsville, was removed in 1993. The DNR also has sought to remove the Dunkirk Dam, which is upstream from Stebbinsville.


The DNR said dams are believed to have been at Stebbinsville since about 1840. The current dam was built in 1918. The site has served as a grist mill, flour mill and most was recently used to produce electricity, but no electricity has been generated there since 1996.


North American Hydro, which operates the Centerway dam on the Rock River, showed interest in the dam in 2006 but decided not to pursue it, citing concerns over the dam’s safety.


The Stebbinsville Dam has been drawn down since 1998, according to a 2009 Dane County report.


“The Stebbinsville impoundment is highly silted and supports high densities of carp, which exacerbates turbidity and sedimentation problems in the river,” according to the Dane County report. “Removal of the dam would open up an additional 4 miles of warm-water fish habitat and could benefit over 50 species of fish found in the Yahara and Rock rivers.”


The DNR says on its Web site that more than 100 dams have been removed statewide since 1967 and that many of those removals have resulted in improvements in water quality, habitat and bio-diversity.


“In the future these types of efforts will probably continue on a selective basis, driven by watershed plans that identify dams which are most detrimental to the ecosystem,” the DNR states.



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