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Project Update: Fifth Avenue Dam Removal

Brent Warren Brent Warren Project Update: Fifth Avenue Dam Removal
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The actual removal of the Fifth Avenue dam was the easy part, relatively speaking. It took workers less than a month to take out a 180-foot chunk of the dam, enough to get a pretty big section of the Olentangy River flowing again. The much harder part came next; shaping the river corridor so that a naturalized channel forms and native wildlife is enticed to set up residence.

George Zonders of the city’s Public Utilities Department explained that crews are currently working their way upstream to Lane Avenue, “basically trying to mimic nature.”

Logs are being used to stabilize the river banks and establish a new, meandering path for the river channel, complete with large wetlands, pools and riffles. Workers, who are also planting native species as they go, have completed the area north of Fifth Avenue roughly to John Herrick Drive. Work will continue through the fall, with the goal of an established, planted channel by late spring of 2014.

Also included in the work are new “scour pools” that are being placed along the largest of the stormwater outflows – the large pipes that funnel water into the river after it rains. The pools are basically rocky areas meant to dissipate the energy of the water coming out of those pipes and minimize erosion of the river banks. A temporary bike path detour is also under construction and will be in place for several months while work continues on the river corridor.

Lindsay Komlanc of Ohio State’s Administration and Planning office calls the river restoration a “cornerstone” of the recent One Ohio State Framework Plan.

“The restored river corridor is one of the biggest ideas in this plan and is the central defining core of our green space strategy. While the work being done right now is the foundation of that restoration, it will take a period of years after the foundation is in place for the restoration to develop,” Komlanc said, adding that this period of transformation is also an important part of OSU’s plan for the corridor.

“This river revival will yield a living-learning laboratory where teaching and research can and will thrive both during and long after the project is complete,” she added. “Some faculty are envisioning student projects centered on the river restoration, and others have asked about lending our university’s vast expertise to the project.”

Ohio State contributed $2 million to the $6.9 million project, with $3.6 million coming from Ohio EPA and the remainder from the Department of Public Utilities, which raises most of its funds through the rates that Columbus residents pay for their water.

More information on the project is available at utilities.columbus.gov.

Photos by Walker Evans.

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