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DNR to draw down water levels at Cornwall Flooding in Cheboygan County in 2023

To address public safety and infrastructure concerns, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources plans to draw down the impoundment behind the Cornwall Flooding dam in Cheboygan County later this year.

The Cornwall Flooding, owned by the DNR, is in the heart of the Pigeon River Country State Forest and is a popular spot for fishing, wildlife viewing, kayaking and other outdoor activities.

Built in 1966, the Cornwall Flooding dam is classified by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy as a high hazard dam. This means that the dam is in an area where a failure may cause serious damage to inhabited homes or infrastructure downstream, where environmental degradation would be significant, or where danger to individuals exists with the potential for the loss of life.

The most recent dam safety inspection in 2019 rated the dam as being in poor condition and recommended immediate actions to improve the safety of the dam. Concerns over the age of the structure surfaced from required inspections as early as 2007.

“The DNR recognizes the recreational importance of Cornwall Flooding, but protecting the public safety of area visitors and everyone living downstream is our top priority,” said Jim Dexter, chief of the DNR Fisheries Division. “We have sought funding in recent years to lower the water and complete safety modifications, all while retaining the impoundment. While we were able to secure limited funding, it wasn’t enough – due in part to the rising costs of construction – to renovate the dam.”

Plans are underway to lower the level of the impoundment in late summer or fall 2023 to address the critical safety concerns identified by EGLE, as well as to seek grant funding for full removal of the dam. Once more is fully understood about how the drawdown may affect the Shore-to-Shore trail, the DNR will develop plans to minimize disruptions to people who currently follow the trail’s route along the dam to cross Cornwall Creek.

The DNR is in the process of evaluating more than 200 state-owned dams throughout Michigan, including at the Cornwall impoundment, to determine next best actions as the agency balances the environmental, social, safety and financial considerations of owning, maintaining and repairing dams. Decisions on dams with significant recreational use will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Use the EGLE Regulated Dams Web Map for information – ownership, condition and hazard potential – about other dams regulated by the state of Michigan.

Learn more about the DNR’s dam management efforts at Michigan.gov/DNRdams.

Contact: Tim Cwalinski, 989-732-3541, ext. 5072 or Sierra Williams, 517-230-8788