Syers Lake Dam Removal Report - Blog (Retired)
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Syers Lake Dam Removal Report

Posted on 4/10/2020 by Fly Fishers International in Conservation Project

Conservation Resource Alliance in Michigan reports on Syers Lake dam removal, a project supported by FFI.

Little Manistee – Syers Lake Dam Removal Project 2019


Photo 1.  In the center of the berm is the culvert for the dam structure. The failed culvert impeded fish passage and roadbed runoff contributed excessive sediment to the stream.


Project Overview:

The Little Manistee River originates from several swamps in eastern Lake County and flows through Lake, Mason and Manistee counties. The Little Manistee watershed drains 145,280 acres which includes approximately 63 miles of river and ultimately flows into Manistee Lake which empties into Lake Michigan. The combination of significant stretches of undeveloped forests and ground-fed streams create one of the coldest and stable streams in Michigan. Syers Lake Dam was a 6’ tall by 125’ long earthen berm dam on a tributary to the Little Manistee River. The artificially high lake level caused by the dam had flooded riparian wetlands on the lake’s margins resulting in extensive shallow-water flats which further exposed the lake to solar heating in addition to inundating 2/3 mile of the original channel. The deteriorated condition of the dam’s water control structure had created a situation in which water did not flow through the dam during periods of low water, resulting in approximately ¼ mile of Syers Creek downstream to go completely dry. The primary associated risk of the dam was imminent catastrophic failure during periods of high water when the water control structure was not able to accommodate flood flows (there was no spillway, auxiliary channel or otherwise to handle overflows). Installation of a properly sized culvert provides for passage of aquatic organisms, ensures year round flow of Syers Creek, and handles high flows during rain and snow melt events.

Project Cost:



  • U.S Fish & Wildlife Service – Fish Passage Program, Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act
  • USDA-NRCS-Regional Conservation Partnership Program
  • Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
  • Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
  • Little Manistee River Watershed Conservation Council
  • Great Lakes Council of Fly Fishers International
  • Fly Fishers International
  • Patagonia
  • Michigan Fly Fishing Club
  • Trout and Salmon Foundation
  • Adjacent Landowners
  • CRA River Care Program- Supported by DTE Energy Foundation
  • The George Fund


Peacock Twp.
Section 1 Lake County, MI
N 44.0633°
W -85.8097°

Best Management Practices:

  • 95" x 67" x 55' pipe arch culvert installed
  • Fieldstone placement for slope stabilization
  • Grading & re-vegetation
  • Channel restoration

Project Benefits:

  • Aquatic organism passage upstream and downstream of the dam location
  • Restoration of perennial flows to Syers Creek below the dam
  • Restoration of native channel above dam
  • Restoration of natural sediment, nutrient, and wood transport regimes
  • Reduction of water temperatures
  • Restoration of riparian wetlands


Partners Involved:

Conservation Resource Alliance, Michigan Office of the Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Kanouse Outdoor Restoration, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Lake County Emergency Management.

Photo 2. New pipe arch placement looking downstream.


Photo 3. Placement of new structure, looking upstream toward coffer dam.



Photo 4. Placement of stream bottom material inside of pipe arch, looking upstream.



Photo 5. Prepping inlet for sheet pile removal.



Photo 6. Prepping for sheet pile removal, note the dewatering structure at left of pipe arch outlet.



Photo 7. Upstream view of pipe arch.


Photo 8. Outlet, looking downstream. Free passage upstream and downstream for non-jumping fish (first time in 60 years).



Download a PDF version of this report.