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As 5th Avenue Dam Comes Down, Part Of The Olentangy Is Restored
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Restoration of the Olentangy River in the vicinity of Ohio State University is now underway after many years of planning. Work on the $7 million project began August 29th with the start of demolition of the 5th Avenue dam.
Two giant Caterpillar machines sit on concrete rubble and batter the 77-year-old dam that stretches across the Olentangy. Bystanders watch the dam disappear bit by bit.
â€œWell we have some heavy equipment here removing the 5th Avenue Dam on the Olentangy River. Theyâ€™re sort of making a big notch in it and lowering the water level,â€ says Anthony Sasson.
Anthony Sasson represents the Nature Conservancy in Ohio. He says removal of the dam will help restore a natural ecosystem to the Olentangy.
â€œWhat weâ€™re going to see is a huge improvement in habitat quality,â€ Sasson says. â€œYouâ€™re going to see fish moving upstream that didnâ€™t occupy this area before. It will be an improvement in fish diversity. People will actually have access to the river. Water quality is going to improve; temperatures are going to go down because you donâ€™t have this big pool up here. So all around youâ€™re going to see improvements both for wildlife and for people,â€ Sasson says.
The project is being paid for by the city of Columbus, the Ohio EPA and Ohio State University. George Zonders, a spokesman for the city, says that once water levels drop, a more natural Olentangy will begin to emerge â€“ with a little assistance.
â€œWeâ€™re going to be adding some natural pools and riffles to mimic the natural areas of the river both upstream and downstream,â€ Zonders says. â€œWeâ€™re going to be replanting with native species and encouraging some wetlands so that area can act as a buffer to prevent pollutants from flowing into the river.â€
Removal of the dam had the backing of William Mitsch, head of Ohio State Universityâ€™s Olentangy River Wetland Research Park.
â€œI came down to see the progress of this thing. I was here on the 29th of August when they first started and that was a memorial day for me. And I just came to see what progress theyâ€™ve made since then,â€ Mitsch says.
The wetlands research center recently released a scientific report that documents the river as itâ€™s been for decades. The report also predicts positive changes will begin to occur once the dam is gone.
â€œIâ€™m looking forward to this system repairing itself and this has been a longtime dream of ours. So itâ€™s a personal dream for me, too. I like to see this dam coming out,â€ Mitsch says.
While the damâ€™s removal will be completed in a matter of days, completion of the entire project wonâ€™t occur for several years.