A little over a year ago—October 2008, FACT was overseeing the actual removal of two lowhead dams located at Columbus’ Academy Park and Nelson Park/Wolfe Park. According to historical records and local accounts the dams were built for recreational purposes, not to deter floods. Unfortunately, the dams created a large pool of calm water that was almost two miles in length. As a result of the murky (low oxygen + high sediment) water, this section of Alum Creek river was determined to be (polluted) in “non-attainment” of the Clean Water Act in 2000.
What lives in the river indicates the health of the river. In 2007, fish and macro invertebrates (small creatures such as aquatic insects and mollusks) were collected and surveyed by FACT’s consultants to determine the number and variety of species. Although chemical studies can also be done, these pollutants may disappear before it is determined that they caused a problem. Thus, aquatic animals serve as important base-line scientific indicators of typical conditions. The fish and macros. that were found could tolerate polluted conditions, indicated there had been no substantial improvement since the 2000 survey.
The structure of the creek was also investigated. A healthy creak curves back and forth, provides shade and food from the trees lining the bank and forms pools and riffles. Again, there was no substantial improvement since the conditions that was causing the impairment continued. The structure of a creek is fundamental to its ability to provide habitat for wildlife. A straight, treeless concrete ditch may convey water, but it cannot support life. When our waterways cannot sustain life, there is a problem.
By removing the lowhead dams, FACT expected that water quality would improve within the year. Well, it has improved! Ohio Environmental Protection Agency returned to analyze Alum Creek in 2009, and discovered more LIFE! The number of fish had increased as well as the variety. In 2007, 15 species of fish could be found upstream from Academy Park; and during 2009—in the same location, 33 species were found! Now, this section of Alum Creek has banded darters, silver redhorses, golden redhorses, and northern hogsuckers. Small mouth and large mouth bass were in this section of Alum Creek before the removal, but now there is more of them. The same increase in number and diversity of fish species has occurred at Nelson Park as well.
The results on the macro invertebrate survey will be forthcoming , but it is expected that they will show positive results as well. Once tabulated we will know this two mile section is re-designated as being in “attainment” with water quality standards.