Columbus has ideas for redeveloping its downtown riverfront along East Fork White River that could help make it a nicer attraction. However, that requires hurdling a significant obstacle.
A century-old low-head dam, located near the new Upland Columbus Pump House restaurant, is falling apart and presents safety concerns. The circular motion the water creates could trap swimmers or kayakers underwater, city officials learned from a consultant.
The options that have been discussed are to remove or modify the dam significantly. The challenge has been how to pay for such work, because it’s expensive.
That’s why we support the Columbus Redevelopment Commission’s decision Jan. 23 to pursue a $200,000 matching grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Grants that are dollar-for-dollar go a long way in helping such projects reach fruition. This was one that city officials were wise not to let pass.
Concerns were raised that the grant is actually for the free flow of rivers for fish passage, but if the city is upfront in the application about the need to remove the deteriorating dam — which as a byproduct could help fish passage — then nothing is lost.
Nothing would have been gained, though, had commission members let the Jan. 25 grant deadline pass by.
Applying for this funding also makes sense considering that the city already is pursuing a $150,000 grant for rivers and lakes enhancement from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, to be used for removing or modifying the low-head dam.
The old low-head dam has no useful application in the state it is in now. Removing it paves the way for a clean start, and using federal dollars to help offset some of the cost is a significant added benefit to what will become a significant community amenity.