LIMA — The last time Ottawa River Coalition Coordinator Beth Seibert was involved with a dam removal project on the Auglaize River, she had some armed visitors unhappy with the lowered waters. Now that she’s involved with a similar removal of the Lowhead Dam located northwest of Lima, the ORC wanted to avoid drawing negative attention by giving the public a chance to provide input.
With that reason in mind, the group hosted two public meetings this November, with the last one held Tuesday night in American Township.
During the meetings, Seibert and Coalition President John Hoffman collected comments from a number of residents about potential concerns that could come with removing the dam, such as additional sediment moving downstream and a decrease in aeration caused by the removal.
The group plans to bring those issues to the major players that would need to approve the dam’s removal — the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Geological Survey and Department of Natural Resources — to ensure that the move wouldn’t adversely affect the river.
Initially suggested by a biologist with the OEPA, Seibert said the dam’s removal is meant to free up the passage of fish and other wildlife who have been restricted from moving south due to the concrete barrier. Eventually, the removal could help improve the river’s environmental health from four to seven miles downstream.
According to an OEPA report, much of the Ottawa River throughout Lima and Shawnee Township has limited wildlife, or “partial aquatic life use attainment.”
“It would be huge to see those (partial) areas turn (full), and our aim is figuring out ho we can do that,” Seibert said. “If it’s (full), my life is simpler.”
Beyond the Lowhead Dam located upstream, the Ottawa River has a number of dams restricting aquatic life throughout the area. Many were originally created in the early 20th century to collect more river flow in order to dilute the run-off and chemicals moving into the water system, Seibert said.
EPA restrictions put in place since that time have helped bring the Ottawa River closer to full attainment, but some branches of the river are still completely devoid of wildlife due to decades of misuse.
The coalition is looking to meet with state agencies sometime in December in order to begin the Lowhead Dam removal sometime in the summer of 2019. Cost is currently expected to be roughly $13,500 — to be paid with private funds — but any extra permitting could increase initial estimates.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.