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Published: Wednesday, 3/30/2005

Ottawa Hills: Public hearing discusses future of dam

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Ottawa Hills' long-standing dam in the Ottawa River near Secor Road soon may be a memory.

Village administrator Marc Thompson said after a public hearing on the matter last week that the dam has no practical effect on water flow, although it does keep fish from migrating upstream.

Hans Gottgens, a specialist in aquatic geology at the University of Toledo, said their is an abundance of fish which can be found in the Ottawa River, including at the university, but in the waters north and west of the dam, fish generally are of the minnow variety.

He showed the group at village hall for the public hearing a photo of a northern pike which was netted in the river on university property. He added that the river at the university also has "abundant yellow perch.''

He said a study performed by his department and that of James Evans of the department of geology at Bowling Green State University, showed there would be little difference in water flow it the dam is removed and soil samples showed that pollution also should not pose a problem.

Some residents had questioned what pollutants might be brought into the stream when the riverbed is disturbed by the dam's removal.

Cherie Blair, of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, pointed out that there have been no problems created by the removal of a dam on the Ottawa River in Camp Miakonda.

Water flows over the dam near Secor Road when it is at a high level and through three gates which are always open when the level is lower.

Although the gates don't impede the water, fish won't migrate through them.

Mr. Evans said he has been involved in several dam removals and that the primary reason for most of them has been potential liability.

The dam "isn't just sitting there benign,'' but could create a problem for the village if it in some way contributed to the injury or death of someone.

He said he couldn't predict what, if anything, might occur that would create a liability, but said it was something village council should include in their considerations.

The council will discuss whether to take out the dam at its April 4 meeting.

The possibility of removing the dam was first brought up in 2001 when representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggested it as a means of returning the waterway to its natural flow.

Ms. Blair noted that there are two or three obstructions to the flow on private property, but that the dam at Secor is the only substantial impediment left to a free flowing river.

Mr. Thompson said no estimates have been sought for removal of the dam, but that he has been told informally that it would probably cost $20,000 to $25,000.

He added that it is likely that the dam was built in 1928 not to afford flood protection, but to create a pond in the village. He said he has seen photographs used for promotional purposes of people canoeing behind the dam.

He said the pond no longer exists and likely was filled with sediment over time.

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096



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