LIMA — Removing the lowhead dam in Allentown may be the key to unlocking a healthier Ottawa River for Allen County.
With that goal in mind, the Ottawa River Coalition is currently leading the charge to take out the concrete structure on Allentown Road just west of Dutch Hollow Road in order to open up the river to fish and other aquatic life that can’t bound over the four-foot tall barrier.
Originally built in 1933 as a tool to gauge the river’s water flow, the Ohio U.S. Geological Survey agency has since removed the meters that monitor the river, and today, the dam serves as little more than an impediment to fish passage and improved water quality, according to a 2010 river study conducted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Coalition Coordinator Beth Seibert said removing the structure would to improve the amount of fish life within the river upstream for up to four miles, which would repopulate some river sections now devoid of fish.
Taking out the 88-foot-long dam, however, will require various stakeholders to agree to project. Seibert visited Allen County Commissioners Thursday morning for their approval as some of the land abutting the dam is owned by the county. Commissioners quickly approved the dam resolution.
The land on the other side of the river is owned by Dominion Energy. Seibert said the corporation had already agreed to the removal of the dam and is willing to let contractors access the structure from its side of the river.
Currently, Seibert expects no major adverse effects from removing the dam. The structure currently doesn’t hold any water back so there will be no downstream flooding, but there most likely will be a thinning of the river directly upstream because the dam and the sediment that has collected upstream has increased the height of the water level.
Cost of the dam project is $13,500, which will be covered by funds collected by the Ottawa River Coalition. Removal will take place over a two-day period after permission is secured by the multiple project stakeholders. Once breached, coalition members will need to monitor the project to ensure slow-moving clams are moved within standing water to avoid problems.
Concerned residents can voice feedback about the dam project at two public meetings to be conducted by the Ottawa River Coalition. Both sessions will be held at the American Township House, 102 Pioneer Road, and they will run from 11 a.m. to noon, Nov. 14 and 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Nov. 20.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.