Establishing the boundaries of a special assessment district for the maintenance and operations of the lake's legal level.

Roscommon County is responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of the Houghton Lake lake-level control structure (dam). In 1994 a legal lake level was established by a Roscommon County Circuit Court order in accordance with Part 307 of Public Act 451 of 1994. Since that time, Roscommon County has paid for the operations and maintenance of the dam out of the County's general fund.

This model of operating is no longer feasible or sustainable. The dam is in need of significant repairs that Roscommon County alone can no longer pay for. Originally constructed in 1938, the dam's pipes are rusting, the pier nose has several large cracks and areas of spalled concrete (spots that have broken off), and operations of the dam gates is labor-intensive, unsafe and susceptible to tampering. 

As the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy revisits rules and regulations surrounding dams,

now is the time for Houghton Lake to modernize with a safe dam that ensures a consistent lake level.


To defray the cost of updating and repairing the dam, the County will establish a special assessment district that will finance improvements to the dam and the future maintenance of the legal level of the lake. The Roscommon County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to begin the process of establishing a lake-level special assessment district for Houghton Lake. The first step in the process is to establish the boundaries of the special assessment district.

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The Dam

The lake level control structure (dam) is located on a tributary that emerges from North Bay Houghton Lake.

It was constructed in 1938 to replace a logging-era wooden structure. The dam is built with concrete abutments, wing walls and concrete piers to form six bays which water flows through. Water flow is regulated through the bays using a combination of stop logs and wooden vertical slide gates.

Operation of the dam is entirely manual. Vertical wooden slide gates are hoisted out of the water by hand and secured in an open position by chaining the gates to the structure's handrail.