Lowhead Dam Removal Archives

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.

Alum Creek Lowhead Dam Removal Improves Environment.  FACT story on  page 6  of  state environmental bi-monthly newspaper,  published Feb. 2009 EarthWatch Ohio.

Alum Creek Lowhead Dams’ Removal Improves Environment.  Winter 2009 edition of Buckeye Basins – web news produced by the Ohio State University Extension, Watershed Team.

FACT press release, Nov. 10, 2008.  Nelson Park lowhead dam to be notched by FACT on Nov. 11, 2008.

Columbus Councilmember Priscilla Tyson’s Corner Newsletter.  Oct.  31, 2008 Autumn edition (page 3) recognizes FACT lowhead dam event.

Celebration Event scheduled at Academy Park for Oct. 14, 2008.    FACT Press Release dated Oct. 8, 2008

Columbus Council Member Priscilla Tyson Speech.  Presented on Oct. 14, 2008 – FACT’s Celebration Event Ceremony, Academy Park.

Two low-head dams to be removed.  Published August 14, 2008 in ThisWeek Bexley.

NBC WCMH TV Channel 10 News.  Paul Stelzer aired evening Aug 7, 2008 (text)

Two Alum Creek Dams to be Removed .  Published August 7, 2008, The Columbus Dispatch


Two lowhead Dams: Nelson Park  and Wolfe Park/Academy Park;  FACT’s Project – existing sites, maps, recommendations, designs:

Academy/Wolfe Park

Academy Park/Wolfe Park lowhead dam

Tree planting & Honeysuckle removal – Sept. 27, 2008  Overview Slide Show  Individual Downloadable Images

Dam Removal – day 1  Oct. 6, 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

Dam Removal – Completed Oct. 23, 2008  no more lowhead damlocation in high water  Oct. 25, 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

Misc Photos:

Ohio EPA guests.  Susan, Margaret Ann, Ellen, Alan. Media – Erin Strouse (OEPA PIO) & Marcus Thorpe (NBC WCMH-TV 4) 

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)

Photo breach

Photo hammer

Photo bucket excavating

Dam removal  Nov. 13 – Day 4  Bexley side– view of east bank

Dam removal  Nov. 19  Almost Gone

Dam removal Nov. 20  All gone – fully restored river site  Upstream view – no more northern pool

Nelson Park