The $4 million project to create a downtown Dayton water recreation attraction while eliminating a dangerous low dam has passed a major regulatory hurdle and is on target for work to begin this fall.
The construction of River Run at RiverScape MetroPark would start with the demolition of the Monument Avenue low dam on the Great Miami River, the site of a drowning in 2003 and a number of close calls and near drownings over the years. Construction should be completed one year after it begins.
River Run will feature two dam-like structures with fast-water passages for canoes and kayaks that will be installed from riverbank to riverbank. Each structure, built of large limestone boulders, will have two passageways with drops: one slower passage for canoes and a faster white water passage for kayaks.
With the low dam out of the way, paddlers will have a seven-mile stretch of river from Eastwood MetroPark to Carillon Park to travel without having to take craft out of the water.
The Miami Conservancy District, which manages the system of dams and levees around the region, this week approved a computer model designed to show whether River Run would have an impact on flood control. The city of Dayton, in coordination with the district, must also sign off on the plan on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But the Conservancy District’s review was critical since it’s a deep analysis tailored to ensure that River Run does not create a flood danger.
The Army Corp of Engineers’ regional office in Huntington, W.V., issued its final permit for RiverScape River Run early this year. The Ohio EPA, which looked at how River Run could affect aquatic wildlife, has also approved the project.
Now with the flood control review complete, Five Rivers MetroParks is expected to finish final engineering plans within the next month. That plan is then forwarded to the Conservancy District for the final permit.
Kurt Rinehart, the district’s chief engineer, said engineers reviewed the plan’s modeling of how removing the low dam as well as adding two recreational dam-like structures upstream would impact river flows and existing in-water structures such as bridge pylons.
The Monument Avenue low dam was built in 1978 to create a pool of water for boating, not for flood control. The computer modeling is based on a U.S. Geological Survey river gauge downtown that’s been in use since the 1920s, he added.
Carrie Scarff, deputy director of Five Rivers MetroParks, which is managing the project, said contractors will be asked to bid on the project as soon as the approvals are in order.
The method for removing the low dam has still to be decided, Scarff said. Construction begins when river levels are at the lowest of the year. Temporary dams, known as coffer dams, will be built upstream to hold water and make the construction easier.
River Run is a top priority for the Downtown Dayton Plan, conceived to improve river safety and boost water recreation, goals that should raise the city’s profile for commercial business and residential development.
The project tapped both public and private funds. The largest contribution to River Run, which has been in the discussion or planning stages for more than a decade, was from the James M. Cox Foundation.
The foundation issued a challenge grant of $1 million. The foundation is the charitable arm of Cox Enterprises and Cox Media Group Ohio which includes the Dayton Daily News, WHIO-TV Channel 7, and WHIO Radio.