Fort McCoy News July 28, 2017

Work to remove West Silver Wetland Dam

underway at McCoy

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The West Silver Wetland Dam, located on Fort McCoy's South Post near the Sparta-Fort McCoy Airport, has been in place on Silver Creek since 1952 and now is in the process of being removed.

Work to remove the structure, which began in early July, is being completed by a crew with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) that specializes in improving streams and returning them to a natural state, said John Noble, fisheries biologist with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.

"We are not sure what the purpose of the dam originally was," Noble said. "Perhaps it was created or established for a lake (impoundment) or maybe for some type of training value. The dam has a unique design with two bypass tunnels and a concrete spillway that includes a fish ladder to help Silver Creek fish move beyond the structure. Prior to the failure of the structure some years ago, we believe this was a great concept, but now it's not a viable structure to have in the watershed and needs to be removed."

Craig Erickson with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources uses an excavator to remove concrete July 18 from the West Silver Wetland Dam along Silver Creek on South Post at Fort McCoy.
Craig Erickson with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources uses
an excavator to remove concrete July 18 from the West Silver Wetland
Dam along Silver Creek on South Post at Fort McCoy.

Craig Erickson, a heavy-equipment operator with the WDNR who has done stream-improvement work at Fort McCoy in the past, said tons of concrete and other material are being removed from the site.

"Removing this structure means removing a fish barrier for this stream," Erickson said. "This is a slow process, but in the end, the work will improve overall stream habitat."

In addition to removing the dam, the WDNR crew will improve the stream banks upstream from the dam's location, Erickson said.

"We have a great crew here that will take the time to do this right," he said.

As concrete is removed from the dam structure, the materials are brought to the Fort McCoy concrete recycling site on North Post. Any metals pulled from the structure also will be recycled, Erickson said.

The crew is using many types of equipment to complete the project, including excavators with jackhammer attachments to break up concrete, a bulldozer, and a specialized tracked dump truck capable of traversing extreme terrain.

Noble said the effort to have the dam removed has been in the works for several years and it's good to see the work underway.

"Once this is done, we will have removed the entire dam structure, managed sedimentation built up by the dam, have all the concrete recycled, and we will be able to re-establish a fish passage to enhance water storage and fish habitat," Noble said. "The stream will be better, and a floodplain area will be widened to include floodwater access into remnant ponds and supporting wetlands.

"This is, overall, a great improvement for our fisheries management, our stream and fisheries quality, and for our environment at Fort McCoy," Noble said.

The improvements may also improve opportunities for those people who enjoy trout fishing.

"There are a lot of people who like to come here for (trout) fishing," Noble said. "Most waters they can fish effectively with worms, spinners or flies, and most all our streams have a lot of naturally reproducing fish, including brook trout."

Stream improvements will continue to be made throughout the installation as needed.

"Sometimes there are old structures (dams or culverts) in streams that go bad, no longer serving their intended purpose, and they need to be removed when no longer needed," Noble said. "It's a process we are always looking at to improve our waterways."

For more information about fishing and stream improvements at Fort McCoy, call Noble at 608-388-5796.