Conservancy district 100 years old


First Posted: 3/6/2015

DAYTON — The Miami Conservancy District, headquartered here and serving the communities along the Great Miami River from Lockington to Hamilton, will reach its 100th anniversary on June 28.

“We’re still in the planning stages for the event,” said Brenda Gibson, public relations manager.

The MCD was the first of its kind in the world when, following the devastation of the 1913 flood, a group of engineers and businessmen and politicians established it. Doing so was not an easy task.

According to the MCD website, “Opposition to both the actual flood protection plans and legislation allowing for conservancy districts almost derailed the effort.”

Cases to prohibit it went all the way to the Supreme Court, which, in 1918, upheld laws that had been passed and signed into law by then-Gov. James Cox in 1914.

Between 1915 and 1921, MCD built five dams to help control floodwaters. The northern-most dam is in Lockington. It protects Troy, Piqua, Sidney and the areas surrounding those cities. Others are in Huber Heights, Dayton, Germantown and Englewood. It also constructed a series of levees in four counties. The levees along the Miami River in Troy and Piqua are MCD constructions.

Now, the MCD system protects 48,000 properties, $5.1 billion in buildings and land and many thousands of people. It was used as a model for the Tennessee Valley Authority and other conservancy projects in several states.

The MCD dams have been successfully doing their jobs for decades, thanks to regular maintenance and upkeep. MCD has invested more than $3.2 million in improvements to the Lockington Dam in the last 10 years.

“The Lockington Dam has stored floodwater a total of 376 times since its completion in 1921,” said Gibson in an email. “The No. 1 largest storage event at Lockington Dam occurred July 9, 2003, when the dam stored 3.9 billion gallons of floodwater. Four of the top 10 storage events have occurred since” then. The 10th largest amount was 2 billion gallons stored on Jan. 6, 2005. The ninth largest amount, 2.1 billion gallons on Jan. 12, 2005; and the fifth largest amount, 2.6 billion gallons on Dec. 22, 2013.

In addition, MCD has played a major part in establishing other developments. It leases land behind the dams to Five Rivers Metroparks, which maintains public parks at the Germantown, Englewood, Taylorsville and Huffman dams. Sixty miles of the 75-mile bike path known as the Great Miami River Recreation Trail is on MCD land. The trail runs from Hamilton to Piqua, along the river.

MCD also established the Aquifer Preservation Subdistrict, a watershed-wide program that supports comprehensive protection and management of groundwater resources, according to the MCD website.

“Bringing together state and federal funds to leverage local dollars, MCD has been a key partner in projects like downtown Dayton’s RiverScape,” the website says.

According to Gibson, MCD secured $279,683 from local, state, and federal sources between 2005 and 2014 as part of the Great Miami River Watershed Water Quality Credit Trading Program. These funds were used to install 136 projects with more than 100 Shelby County agricultural producers that reduce nutrient runoff. Another $129,964 was used to install 29 such projects with Miami County producers.

In a report provided to Shelby County officials in 2014, MCD stated that it “conducts activities to address water availability and supply. (It) measures 101 wells for groundwater levels on a daily or monthly basis. The well network provides information necessary to evaluate water availability under different conditions and to predict water availability for future conditions including drought.”

Thirteen of those wells are in Shelby County and there are 15 in Miami County.

“The wells provide current information on how much water is stored in various aquifers throughout Shelby County,” the report said.

The organization measures daily rainfall amounts at 56 locations throughout the Great Miami River Watershed, including at stations in Tipp City, Troy, Piqua and Sidney.

“The data helps assess water availability, drought severity, and forecast floods,” the report said. “MCD provides timely, accurate data and technical support to assist local communities with water resources concerns.”

Its support of projects to improve or protect water has included $35,000 to the Milton-Union School District to install features at the new school facility that increase recharge of water to the aquifer and reduce polluted runoff infiltrating into the aquifer; $5,500 to the Lockington Volunteer Fire Association to acquire supplies, equipment and training for better emergency response to protect surface water and groundwater; $65,000 to the city of Tipp City and $30,590 to the city of Union to acquire sensitive lands to ensure wellfield protection; $7,777 to Miami County Firefighter’s Association to purchase supplies to fight fires in groundwater sensitive areas; and $35,000 to Sidney-Shelby County Health District to provide cost-share for property owners who upgrade their poorly functioning septic systems, which can cause both surface and groundwater impairment.

MCD also assisted Concord Township in obtaining state funding to remove inappropriate development in the floodplain along the Great Miami River at county Road 25A and create the Barbee Memorial Park.

Staff members have advised local cities on source water issues, provided funds for mobile classroom visits and supported the annual river clean up effort. It is a resource of information for all area residents through its website, http://miamiconservancy.org.

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