|Rendering of the Scioto riverfront after restoration|
Although dams do provide some benefits, such as drinking water supply and a barrier to invasive species, a large portion of dams that once served a purpose are becoming obsolete. Dams can create a safety hazard for people and are also an ecological barrier, meaning a barrier to fish migration, and in turn, a barrier to freshwater mussel life. This does not promote a healthy stream system.
In light of these hazards, a significant factor in recent dam removal efforts is to restore the rivers and the natural flows for fish and wildlife, and reinstate the natural sediment and nutrient flow. We’ve seen a desire from the public to restore their surroundings back to their natural state.
|In this existing conditions view, you can see|
where the riverfront is underutilized as a public amenity
In Columbus, two of our largest dam removal/river restoration projects were motivated by this same shift in public thinking. The Scioto Greenways project in downtown Columbus was spurred by public interest in water quality improvement of the river, and the ability to recreate on the waterway.
As part of the 2010 Downtown Master Plan, public meetings were conducted and comments were received from the community. We were surprised to find that the Scioto Greenways project was ranked as the number one priority by the community. They wanted to reconnect with their natural environment and be able to appreciate the natural areas around them.
As part of this project, our team is creating 33 acres of green space for public use on both banks of the Scioto River, creating walking and biking trails, planting trees and vegetation, and narrowing the river from 600 feet wide to 300 feet wide to create more room for recreational activities. This project, when completed, is intended to transform the landscape of downtown Columbus and feature the river as an integral part of the city.
Across the country, dam removal and river restoration projects are improving ecological systems and habitats, and here in our own backyard, we’re seeing these projects create vibrant communities, improve connectivity, and bring people together.
Bryon Ringley is a senior principal and water practice leader in our Columbus, Ohio office.