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:

  •  FACT Special Edition Newsletter on Lowhead Dams Nelson Park  lowhead dam Nelson ParkPublic Informational Meetings about lowhead dams at Wolfe Park house by FACT.  First info meeting held on Aug.14, 2008. Photos courtesy of Bill Minckler & the City of Bexley.
  •  Consulting Engineer Firm contracted by FACT
  • Wolfe Park/Academy Park
  • Sign of historical time safety repair (Academy Park weir)
  • Photos of existing lowhead dams  (from August 31, 2008)
  • Wolfe Park/Academy Park lowhead dam
  • Existing conditions & proposal (illustrations) June 2008
  • Project site map, aerial, alternate possibilities (4 pages) August 2007
  • History
  • Burgess & Niple, Inc., consulting engineer firm of Columbus, OH, selected by FACT as the primary project contractor. Additional Lowhead Dam News, Resources, & White Papers: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.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.

  • 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).
  • OhioEPA, Section 319 Framework for Lowhead Dam Removal Decision-Making  (PDF)
  • 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.
  • Removal of Lowhead Dams
    8 1/2″ minute video from Ohio Dept. Natural Resoources Div. of Wildlife
  • featuring Wolfe Creek lowhead dam removal project. Because these dams are ecologically unsound and can be harmful to fish populations, the Division of    Wildlife  is making an effort to remove them from Ohio waters.

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