Complaint Filed to Stop Drawdown of Forestville Millpond

The Friends of the Forestville Dam and 12 other plaintiffs have filed a complaint to stop Door County’s temporary drawdown of the Forestville Millpond and to restore and maintain the reservoir’s historical levels. 

The Friends are a nonprofit corporation established by residents of the Door County and Kewaunee County communities who “support the continued use and enjoyment of the Ahnapee River both upstream and downstream of the Forestville Dam,” according to the complaint. The plaintiffs consist of both waterfront and nonwaterfront property owners.

The Forestville Dam, located on the Ahnapee River in southern Door County, created a reservoir known as the Forestville Millpond. Both were created in 1877 and legalized in 1885. The complaint lays out the history: The original dam was used for milling until heavy rains washed it away in 1920. A concrete structure replaced the original wood structure in 1934. The dam was sold to the Town of Forestville in 1949, which then gave it to Door County in 1963. Door County reconstructed the dam in 1981 and maintained the level of the dam’s weir at 592 above mean sea level until the drawdown began.

Door County approved the two-year temporary drawdown of the millpond beginning in November 2019 and running through October 2021 to “address the presence of accumulated sediment causing lower water depths and restore a more abundant and diverse plant community from nuisance aquatic vegetation,” according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs opposed the drawdown out of concern that it would negatively affect their use and enjoyment of the millpond, even temporarily, and also result in the “unimpeded transfer of sediment downstream, thereby causing additional environmental harm,” according to the complaint. 

Today, with the drawdown scheduled for completion in October of this year, “the temporary drawdown has been a failure due, in part, to Door County’s failure to follow its plan for conducting the drawdown,” according to the complaint. “Continuation of the drawdown, even for the remainder of the two-year period, is unlikely to meet the stated purposes of the drawdown but will continue to impair the plaintiffs’ rights to the use and enjoyment of the millpond and constitutes an ongoing nuisance.” 

The plaintiffs charge that Door County is not following its own plan by monitoring and controlling the drawdown and is instead “repeatedly exceeding the maximum drawdown rate of three inches per day and repeatedly allowing the millpond to refill, such that the intended purpose of the drawdown is unlikely to be met within the two-year drawndown period,” according to the complaint.

For these reasons, the plaintiffs want Door County to stop the temporary drawdown and to operate the weir of the dam at about 592 feet above mean sea level to maintain the millpond’s historical water level.

The plaintiffs filed their complaint Jan. 19. Door County has 45 days to file an answer. Door County does not comment publicly on litigation in progress, said Grant Thomas, corporation counsel.