Lowhead Dam Removal Activities
Why Remove Lowhead Dams?
Lowhead dams are one of the mysterious and frustrating features of our local rivers. These are artificial structures of stone, timber or other material, which are less than 15 feet in height and extending across the channel. Ohio's rivers are dotted with these structures, and the results are usually not good. A normal unobstructed river naturally meanders on its bed course within a floodplain, with the passage of time. But each artificial lowhead dam turns the river into a stagnant small lake in the impounded area which may stretch for a mile or more upstream. The water passing over a dam can pose lethal safety hazards and have thus been referred as "drowning machines". Several lowhead dams are known to exist in Alum Creek.
Why were they installed? Sometimes it's obvious-- Westerville's dam provides a pool for the city's water intake; another small dam on our creek has a utility pipe crossing under it. But at least two significant lowhead dams- 4 to 6 feet tall each, around Nelson Road and E. Broad Street -one near the north end of Nelson Park, and one just north of the swinging footbridge between Academy Park and Wolfe Park are not believed to have any useful purpose now. The stagnant water behind them is not suitable for most fish and other diverse life that a healthy river normally can support.
FACT is pleased to expect some great changes for the better soon here, as we are moving ahead with a project (supported by US EPA section 319 grant, administered via Ohio EPA) to remove these two lowhead dams in the central urban part - between Columbus & Bexley - of our watershed. Check back here often for updates on these projects.
FACT Lowhead Dam Project in the News:
Special Edition FACT Newsletter lowhead dam feature published January 2009
FACT Special Edition Newsletter on Lowhead Dams published October 2007
For press releases, local news media coverage, and other publications regarding FACT's Lowhead Dam Removal Project, please see below and FACT Publications section.
Two lowhead Dams: Nelson Park and Wolfe Park/Academy Park; FACT's Project - existing sites, maps, recommendations, designs:
Existing conditions & proposal (illustrations) June 2008
Photos of existing lowhead dams (from August 31, 2008)
Consulting Engineer Firm contracted by FACT
Additional Lowhead Dam News, Resources, & White Papers:
Ohio EPA link for FY2005 details about Ohio grant projects for dam removal and river restorations, nonpoint source pollution, etc. See page 17 for Alum Creek.
Ohio DNR's website lists over 45 such obsolete dams removed from our creeks and rivers.
Olentangy River lowhead dam removal project website (located: 5th Ave & SR 315 at The Ohio State University Campus in Columbus, OH )
American Rivers is a national non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting and restoring healthy natural rivers and the variety of life they sustain for people, fish, & wildlife.
Heinz Center a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution dedicated to improving the scientific and economic foundation for environmental policy through multi-sectoral collaboration among industry, government, academia, and environmental organizations. Click on publications where you can download Heinz reports on 'Dam Removal Research: Status and Prospects '(2003) and Dam Removal: Science and Decision Making' (2002).
Maine Conservationists Reach Milestone in Plan to Buy 3 Dams. Penobscot River Restoration Trust, a Maine environmental coalition, has raised $25 million it needed. They will remove two of the three dams acquired from a power company and build a fish run around the third, opening up 1,000 miles of the Penobscot and its tributaries, home to most of the country's Atlantic salmon population. Published August 22, 2008 by the New York Times.
Photos of FACT's Project...
Academy Park/Wolfe Park lowhead dam
Tree planting & Honeysuckle removal - Sept. 27, 2008 Overview Slide Show Individual Downloadable Images
Dam Removal - day 2 Oct. 7, 2008 Temporary gravel causeway
Dam Removal - day 4 Oct. 9, 2008 Panoramic view of east side removed
Dam Removal - day 6 Oct. 14, 2008 Panoramic view with shovel
Dam Removal - day 7 Oct. 17, 2008 Panoramic view photo-7
Photo shot Oct. 19 published by Columbus Dispatch on Oct. 20, 2008
Celebration Event Ceremony held Oct. 14, 2008 at Academy Park featuring speakers: Ohio EPA Nonpoint Source Section Manager, Russ Gibson; Columbus City Council Member, Priscilla Tyson; Columbus Recreation & Parks Director, Alan McKnight; FACT VP, Jerry Holloway; FACT Watershed Coordinator, Kim Williams; Communications Chair, David Roseman
Nelson Park lowhead dam
Dam Removal Nov. 10, 2008 - Day 1 Staged equipment
First notch & breach Nov. 11- Day 2
First hammering (wmv)
Initial notch (wmv)
Full Breach (wmv)
Dam removal Nov. 13 - Day 4 Bexley side- view of east bank