Groups want to remove low dam on Great Miami River

Montgomery County has endorsed removing the Tait Station dam on the Great Miami River, which could boost the project’s chances of acquiring highly competitive state funding.

The Miami Conservancy District wants to demolish the low dam it owns near Carillon Historical Park to improve the river’s appearance, water quality and make it safer for paddling activities.

The conservancy district needs grants to afford the project’s roughly $1 million price tag. The county’s support, and the city of Dayton’s expected support, should improve the likelihood of that happening.

The project will open up more of the river to paddlers by eliminating a hazardous type of structure that many have dubbed “drowning machines.”

“Recreation is increasing in popularity and this poses a significant threat to human safety,” said Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager of watershed partnerships with the Miami Conservancy District.

On Tuesday, Montgomery County commissioners approved a resolution asking the Miami Conservancy District to pursue removing the Tait Station dam.

City of Dayton officials said similar legislation should be added to the commission calendar later this month.

The dam, constructed by Dayton Power & Light in 1935, has not been used to generate electricity since the 1980s, and the company transferred its ownership to the conservancy district about 26 years ago.

The county pays an assessment to the conservancy district to help with costs related to maintaining and operating the Dayton Low Dam, the South Montgomery County dams and the Tait Station dam.

The Tait Station dam has outlived its useful life, but repairing and upgrading it would cost $5 million or more and the benefits of such an investment would be minimal, said Hall, with the conservancy district.

The group wants the dam gone and the eroded stream banks restored partly because the dam is impairing water quality, since it slows the river down, lowering oxygen levels, negatively impacting aquatic life, she said.

Also, low dams are deceptively dangerous and create a recirculating current that can trap people underwater.

Five Rivers MetroParks also backs the dam’s removal to improve safety, environmental quality and water access, said Carrie Scarff, MetroParks’ chief of planning and projects.

“With Dayton’s strong paddling community, removal of the dam opens more waters to kayakers, paddleboarders and canoeists,” she said.

Last year, the Miami Conservancy District asked for nearly $1.7 million in funding through the Ohio EPA’s Water Resource Restoration Program. But the project did not receive an award. The district intends to apply again in the next round.

Hall said she hopes the project takes place in the next couple of years.

The Monument Avenue low dam, near the Dayton Art Institute, was removed and has significantly extended the amount of waterway paddlers can float through downtown.

The Ohio EPA expects to issue a call for new nominations for the Water Resource Restoration Program in the next several weeks, with a submission deadline by the end of the year, said Dina Pierce, agency spokeswoman.

About $10 million will be available, and the proposed dam removal project scored well for its inaugural nomination, it just wasn’t high enough to beat out some other projects, she said.

“We encourage (the conservancy district) to resubmit the project for consideration in the next round of funding,” she said.

But the funding is highly competitive, and nominated projects last year requested far more money than what was available to award. But local dam-removal projects have earned allocations.

Another potential source of grant funding could include the Ohio Department of Transportation.

About the Author