The Village of Williamsburg is working with Clermont SWCD to remove a dam on the East Fork of the Little Miami River just south of State Route 32. The first steps were taken on Saturday, October 13, when the dam was notched to slowly release water downstream. As the river level receded, 58 volunteers helped the project team collect and relocate over 700 freshwater mussels that live in the river bed. Some of these were relocated upstream, while others were relocated to Mill Creek in Cincinnati in an attempt to re-establish a mussel population here (click here to see the story aired by Local 12 News). Removal of the dam will restore river habitat, eliminate a public hazard, and improve future recreational opportunities in Williamsburg and Clermont County
The dam was constructed in the early 1930s by the Village of Williamsburg as part of a local water works facility. The drinking water plant served approximately 2,300 residents through the late 1990s, at which time Ohio EPA began to require significant improvements to address pesticides in the water. Ultimately, the Village concluded that the cost of constructing a new filtration system was more than it could afford, and the decision was made to switch to Clermont County’s drinking water system. The Williamsburg drinking water plant was permanently closed in 2003. As a result, the dam no longer served a purpose.
River restoration is the primary goal for this project. Construction of the dam impounded the river and resulted in the loss of high quality stream habitat, and as a result, sections of the East Fork are not meeting water quality criteria set by Ohio EPA. As part of the dam removal project, instream habitat for fish, aquatic insects and other species, will be restored.
Public safety is another reason for removing the dam. The dam is a liability for the Village of Williamsburg, as people who boat, fish, or play on or near the dam unknowingly risk serious injury and even death. Low-head dams are often referred to as drowning machines. Recently, Williamsburg residents dedicated a monument in memory of two young brothers who drowned in the turbulent backwaters of the dam in the mid-1970s. Many members of the community have voiced support for removing the dam, to avoid any potential accidents in the future.
More than 50 dams have been removed across Ohio over the last few decades. Clermont SWCD assisted with a complete dam removal in Brown County in the East Fork watershed in 2014; the District is also assisting with current efforts to remove another low-head on the East Fork in downtown Batavia.
The dam removal project is funded through Ohio EPA’s Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program. For additional information, please contact Becky McClatchey, Natural Resource Specialist for Clermont SWCD at (513) 732-7075 ext. 6 or at email@example.com.
Ohio DNR info on low-head dams: http://watercraft.ohiodnr.gov/lowheaddams
American River’s video on dam removals: Taking a Second Look: Communities and Dam Removal.