Study: Removing dam wouldn’t hurt river flow

The city of Columbus could remove the low-head dam near the Upland Columbus Pump House without affecting the East Fork White River.

That conclusion was part of findings of a study presented to the Columbus Redevelopment Commission on Monday by Bob Barr, a research scientist with IUPUI who is associated with a group of state and federal agencies known as the Silver Jackets, which was asked by the city to study the river.

Columbus is looking to develop the city’s riverfront between the Second and Third Street bridges to improve the quality of life for residents and to draw more visitors to the city. Barr said the Silver Jackets’ study was performed north and south of the low-head dam, evaluating the width and depth of the river at nine locations.

The analysis also looked at how sediment is transported along the river with the low-head dam in place, Barr said. Other than sediment found in a gravel pit just south of the designated project area, no major issues were discovered, he said.

The low-head dam was restricting the flow of sediment downstream as it normally should, Barr said.

“If the dam is taken out, the river will recover very quickly,” he said. “The river is deepest where it should be.”

Hitchcock Design Group, which was hired by the city in December at a cost not to exceed $299,000, is in the process of developing designs of the riverfront area that are expected to be presented to the public in late August or early September.

The city is awaiting word from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on a $100,000 to $150,000 grant for lake and river enhancement that could be used to modify or remove the dam. However, it won’t receive a $200,000 matching grant it sought from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since the agency isn’t awarding money this year, said Karen Valiquett with Indianapolis-based CORE Planning.

CORE was selected in May 2016 by the Columbus Redevelopment Commission as a consultant to guide the city in how to obtain a workable design plan for the area. It was hired for a maximum of $90,000 for 50 weeks of work to assess the downtown riverfront in Columbus.

John Dorenbusch, a member of the redevelopment commission, said he wants to gather more information before deciding what to do with the low-head dam.

A $7,150 contract was approved Monday with Indianapolis-based SJCA Engineers and Surveyors to perform a 2-D model of the low-head dam.

That information will help engineers with Christopher B. Burke Engineering to model the hydrology of the river, said Randy Royer, the city’s riverfront project manager with Hitchcock. The designs for the riverfront also will be incorporated into the model to see how the river is affected with and without the low-head dam, Royer said.

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The city is looking to draw more people to the riverfront between the Second and Third street bridges and has hired Indianapolis-based Hitchcock Design Group to design the project. The firm is currently developing designs for the riverfront that are expected to be presented in late August or early September.

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