DNR Reports Partial Failure of Net River Dam in Baraga County

Net River Dam Failure

A view of the washed-out area around the dam and berm, resulting from a failed water control structure. (Courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

State, county and local officials are on the scene at the Net River Flooding State Wildlife Management Area to assess the partial failure of the Net River Dam.

The dam is located on the south outlet of the Net River Flooding in Baraga County, south of Covington and north of Crystal Falls.

According to Scullon, the Net River dam is in a remote area of the Upper Peninsula and is considered “low hazard” – meaning a failure poses low risk to public safety, property and environment.

The DNR says a person visiting the area Wednesday night noticed the washed-out area around the dam and berm and contacted the local DNR Wildlife Field Office.

“Initial examination of the site suggests that, at some point over the last few days, the Net River Dam experienced a partial failure due to corrosion of the water control structure in the middle of the dam, and that caused a sinkhole to develop,” said Bill Scullon, DNR wildlife operations field manager. “The good news is that both the upstream and downstream embankments appear to be solid and are currently retaining the impoundment water just as they are

Net River Map Location

(Courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

designed to do.”

Along with DNR wildlife and forestry staff, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy dam inspectors and contractors, DNR parks and recreation staff and DNR conservation officers and Michigan State Police officers have been on site. Authorities at the the Paint River Dam in Crystal Falls are making room for any additional water that could flow their way if the dam fails.

There are three bridges downstream of the Net River dam, two of which are on US-141, with the other being a railroad bridge. Officials don’t expect the bridges will be affected, but local law enforcement have been notified.

According to Scullon, the Net River Flooding is a culturally important impoundment that supports a variety of fish and wildlife, and the area has benefited from a habitat restoration partnership with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

“The situation at the Net River dam should pose no concern for area fish and wildlife,” Scullon said. “The amount of water moving through this structure is normal, and nothing we’ve seen downstream is unusual for what we would expect this time of year.”

The Net River dam was inspected in August 2020 and received a rating of fair.