For immediate release
September 13, 2012

Restoration of the Olentangy River near OSU Moves Forward Following Fifth Avenue Dam Work

 Mayor Michael B. Coleman joined Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally, Ohio State University Senior Vice President for Administration and Planning Jay Kasey and others to update progress on work to restore the Olentangy River corridor near the university, which began with partial removal of the Fifth Avenue dam. Mayor Coleman noted the partnership required to make this $6.9 million project a reality.

“This project is an example of our commitment to provide responsible stewardship of our natural resources,” said Mayor Michael B. Coleman. “We are grateful to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and The Ohio State University for the funding they have pledged toward this plan.”

Benefits of this long-term project include restoring a more natural flow to the Olentangy through the OSU campus area, which is anticipated to encourage wider varieties of animal and plant life. Work will continue in 2013 and beyond to restore the area upstream of the dam by defining the river channel complete with riffles and pools, setting aside areas for wetlands and establishing native species of grasses and other plants. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is contributing a total of $3.6 million in grants toward these efforts.

“The river restoration project will transform a once stagnant waterway into the vibrant and vital river it should be,” said Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally. “Legacy dam removal is just another example of how the great partnerships Ohio EPA is forging with our local communities and research institutions can improve water quality across the state.”

The first part of the project involved completely removing approximately one third (about 180 linear feet) of the dam, enough to restore a natural channel for the Olentangy. Along the remaining length of the dam, the top two feet has been removed and what is left will eventually be completely covered by a new embankment area. The dam was originally built in 1935 to supply water for a power plant on the OSU campus; now the university is contributing $2 million dollars toward the project and has big plans for the restored river corridor with research and recreational opportunities.

“The restored river corridor is a cornerstone of the University’s long-range vision and will represent one of our most important natural features,” said Jay Kasey, OSU Senior Vice President for Administration & Planning. “It will become a focal point of economic activity, clinical care and research, and unique academic endeavors.”

Columbus City Council has played a key role in monitoring this project through inspection and approval of funding legislation, with an eye toward applying lessons learned here toward the removal of the Main Street dam downtown planned for 2014.

“Columbus’ Downtown Strategic Plan speaks to the need to clean our rivers, repair environmental damage and improve local water ways to open opportunities for recreation,” said Council President Andrew J. Ginther. “Removing this low-head dam brings us one step closer to developing the Scioto-Olentangy greenway corridor, creating a navigable waterway, and adding acres of green space that will be enjoyed by Columbus residents and visitors for decades to come.”

Another key partner in this project is the non-profit volunteer group Friends of the Lower Olentangy (FLOW), advocates for the river who are donating time to update and educate the public along the corridor as well as helping to relocate species of mussels native to the Olentangy to other areas of the river (http://www.olentangywatershed.org/). In addition, Battelle Memorial Institute – just east of the dam itself – has provided live project views via an online “dam cam” (http://www.truelook.com/clients/messer-webcam/).

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Illustrations show the proposed river bed, as well as future projections of the area (large files).