Golden Lotus successfully coordinated the drawdown of the Song of the Morning Dam backwater in the summer of 2014 and the removal of the dam in fall of 2015. The removal of this dam on the Pigeon River was a critical first step to restoring longitudinal connectivity and free-flowing conditions along the river. Despite this effort, the river has not yet fully recovered. Allowed to freely adjust to the new conditions, the river downcut and widened following dam removal. Near the upstream end of the former impoundment, the delta area became an area with an unstable multi-thread channel that started to widen by 2016. Further downstream near the former dam, the high vertical banks continue to erode large slump blocks of fine muck soils into the river. These affected areas differ drastically from stable reference conditions a mile upstream, where the Pigeon River is a narrow, moderately meandering, wet meadow stream.

Even though the dam removal improved water temperatures, the summer temperature regime has not fully recovered. Riparian vegetation has not become established due to the lack of lateral floodplain connectivity and lowered groundwater table caused by gullies and desiccation cracks in the dried muck soil. Most of the valley bottom east of the river along the Golden Lotus property was upland meadow until 2019, which was one of the highest rainfall years on record. Approximately 10 acres of perched marginal wetland formed in this area last year, but those wetlands are at high risk of reverting to upland due to deep gullies that have formed in the landscape. These impacts, plus persistent river instability, results in the need to intervene with direct restoration of the channel within the footprint of the former reservoir.


      Implement a channel and valley corridor improvement project that maximizes benefits to desirable flora and fauna, minimizes impoundment effects, is stable and self-sustaining, and protects downstream receiving waters.


  • Long-term Channel Stability (i.e. conveys water and sediment provided by the watershed with minimal geomorphically inappropriate change to its pattern, profile and dimension). Excessive stability measures should be avoided if they would inhibit the stream from adjusting to future changes in flow regime or sediment loads; however, the design should provide a reasonable level of confidence in the finished product for all stakeholders.
  • Wetland and riparian habitat function and value should be improved without adverse impact to water quality of the river. Emphasis will be placed on enhancements to or creation of hemi-marsh areas or comparable habitats that support migratory birds.
  • The design should provide reasonable expectations for outcomes and potential for excess downstream sedimentation to the extent possible.
  • Create a channel with bedform and substrate diversity.
  • Maintain water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels conducive to supporting a thriving coldwater community.
  • The project should minimize future maintenance post-construction; i.e. no predictable need for sand traps, minimal need for future earthwork or replanting, etc.
  • The reconstructed channel shall not inhibit volitional passage of aquatic species.
  • Restoration activities should not cause significant adverse impacts to the river downstream of the project area, including excessive sediment deposition, change in capacity or competence, with specific concern for excess sedimentation of riverine habitats.
  • The finished project should be aesthetically pleasing as described in the Natural Rivers Act.
  • Per the existing settlement agreement, the restored channel length should approximate the predicted through total length of former impoundment (i.e. from the dam location to Old Vanderbilt Club). The restored channel should approximate typical slope conditions found elsewhere in the Pigeon River.

Proposed Schedule

March 27, 2020: 60% Design Deliverable

April 3, 2020: MiWaters Joint Permit Application Submittal

April 24, 2020: Final Design Deliverables and Bidding Documents to Golden Lotus Inc., MDNR

May 4 – 22, 2020: Project Bidding

June 2020: Construction Contracting, SESC Permit, Insurance, Bonds

July 6, 2020: Contractor Mobilization

mid-July – December 2020: Construction

June – July 2021: Maintenance, Erosion Control, Supplemen tal Seeding and Planting

September 2021: Final Reporting, Permit Closures

View and Download Overview

Funding Provided by:

  • Michigan DNR
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • NFWF – Sustain Our Great Lakes

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