Dam removal up in the air


By Sam Wildow - Miami Valley Sunday News



TROY — The Troy City Council and Piqua City Commission held a joint meeting on Thursday evening as part of the third presentation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Bravo Room at Hobart Arena.

Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that they are seeking possible letters of support from the cities of Troy and Piqua by the end of the month if the cities would like to pursue a nomination for sponsorship funding from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the dam removal or modification of low-head dams in the city limits of Piqua and Troy along the Great Miami River.

Donnie Knight with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service explained the Ohio EPA’s Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program (WRRSP) has funded the majority of these types of projects, awarding funding of $30 million and upwards of $100 million. Another representative from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said there is no requirement for local match funds, suggesting it is possible there may be little to no cost for the cities to have the dams removed.

Created by Ohio EPA’s Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance (DEFA) in 2000, WRRSP advances interest monies from Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF) sponsor projects to fund preservation and restoration of the state’s water resources, according to the Ohio EPA.

When asked about the purpose of removing the low-head dams, Knight said, “The dams no longer serve their intended function.” He said removing the dams increases safety, as low-head dams are a drowning hazard due to the hydraulic jump of dams’ currents, in addition to improving biodiversity of fish and other aquatic life. An economic burden is also removed as the cities would not have to maintain the dams, and Knight also said there is a trend toward the removal or modification of low-head dams to encourage recreational and economic development along the river.

Piqua City Commissioner John Martin disagreed with Knight on the issue of low-head dams being a safety hazard, appearing in favor of keeping Piqua’s dam for use of power sports. Martin suggested modifying Piqua’s dam to include a gate.

City of Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds appeared in favor of addressing the safety hazard of low-head dams.

Knight said that, if cities desired to keep their dams, then they are looking at “very different funding opportunities.” Knight said the cost of maintaining the dams would be “on the city’s own dime” as there are more sponsorship and grant funding opportunities for the removal of low-head dams.

Later during the meeting, Knight said they are still gathering data on Troy’s and Piqua’s dams, and they are “a year out from having a design that fills the need of the cities.” A design is not needed for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seek a nomination for possible WRRSP funding, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs letters of support for the removal of Troy’s and Piqua’s dams by Aug. 31.

“Dam removal, should it occur, you’re probably talking to years away,” Knight said.

It was noted that one of Piqua’s dams cannot be removed due to it still being used for a structural purpose.

In regard to Troy’s low-head dam near Treasure Island, David Heilman of Flatland Resources said removing the dam would eventually cause the river to narrow. A representative from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, if the dam was removed, a rock structure in the formation of a series of ripples could be added in order to hold more water at Treasure Island.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife is expected to have another public meeting in October.

By Sam Wildow

Miami Valley Sunday News

Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com. ©2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.

Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com. ©2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.