Construction to Repair O’Neal Lake Dam in Emmet County is Now Underway

It’s not likely that you want to hear sounds of construction in your backyard but for people in this part of Northern Michigan, it’s a sound they’ve been waiting for.

Construction is now underway in Emmet County, replacing a dam that failed almost four years ago.

Since then, community members pushed for the O’Neal Lake Dam to be replaced, the lake it held back drained.

The dam is at O’Neal Lake in Emmett County’s Bliss Township.

Since its failure in 2014, it was unclear if the state would be able to replace the dam.

Then in April, the DNR secured enough money to get it done.

“I’ve lived there for 25 years and I’ve fished it since I was just a little fellow,” Friends of O’Neal Lake President Dave Burfield, said.

For people like Dave Burfield, the sound of construction has been a long time coming.

“Hopefully when I get home tonight the dogs will be hoarse from barking,” Burfield, joked.

Since the day the dam failed almost 4 years ago, Dave and others have fought to get it back.

With construction underway and a restored lake in their future, it’s a moment of joy and relief.

“There’s been a lot of meetings, initially it was a little bit hard going forward. There are lot of people that really care about that place, i’m absolutely tickled, its wonderful we are going get the lake back,” Burfield, added.

The DNR received dam funding back in April, they’re excited to bring back something so many care about.

“It’s very gratifying for us as an agency and of course to address some of the public interest here and to reestablish the public recreational benefit, and the renovated structure will recreate the flooding for O’Neal Lake dam,” DNR Regional Field Planner Keith Cheli, said.

Crews will work until mid-December, at that time a number of recreational activities will be back in Bliss.

“It’s a real unique public experience in a lot of ways. Canoeing, kayaking, maybe small motors, on the water,” Cheli, explained.

For Dave Burfield it means grabbing a pole and casting a line for many more years.

“I typically fish that lake just about every weekend all summer long, pretty regular in the winter as well. It will be great to be able to do that again,” Burfield, said.