New Albany calls on MNR to remove Silver Creek Dam – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville
Authorities in New Albany are officially appealing the removal of a Silver Creek low-fall dam.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has approved Providence Mill Dam removal earlier this month. This is part of the River Heritage Conservancy’s plan for the 600-acre Origin Park, which includes opening of Silver Creek to paddlers and other types of recreation.
Association executive director Scott Martin said removing the low-head dam would increase safety and benefit local wildlife along the waterway, which separates Clark and Floyd counties.
“Top aquatic biologists, both from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, have reviewed the project and determined that removing this dam only brings tremendous benefits to native fish communities. , mussels, amphibians and reptiles call this place home, ”Martin said. “So the science is there, which is why the permit application was approved by the regulatory agency.”
But New Albany officials disagree with the decision. Mayor Jeff Gahan said he wanted MNR to first conduct a study on the effects of removing the dam and then make the results public to residents. Like Origin Park, New Albany has separate plans to allow residents to paddle Silver Creek.
Landowners along the creek recently received letters from Gahan, outlining his concerns and explaining how they can file a separate appeal.
“It’s just me doing my job to make sure that some people in Indianapolis don’t make these decisions at random that impact the people who live in New Albany, and give citizens the peace of mind of at least know what’s going to happen before they remove a dam that’s been around for over 100 years, ”Gahan said.
The old Providence Mill Dam, or Spring Street Dam, is located near its titular street, about two miles upstream of the Ohio River. The low head dam measures 290 feet by 6 feet and has been in place for about a century, although it is no longer used for nothing.
In his letter to residents, dated June 14, Gahan listed five of his top concerns about removing the dam. They include questions about the Silver Creek property, MNR’s power to delegate the removal to a third party, effects on recreation in the creek, and effects on the surrounding landscape, which includes the New Albany Loop Island wetlands owned by in the city.
“It really is a special ecosystem in itself,” Gahan said. “All I’m saying is why don’t we do a study? At least let everyone know the effects of removing the dam. That’s all I’m suggesting.
Gahan also spoke of erosion issues along a nearby portion of the Ohio River in Clarksville, which caused a riparian road to collapse and indefinitely in 2019.
But Martin of the River Heritage Conservancy said this kind of natural change is due to the much more powerful Ohio River, not Silver Creek or the low-head dam. the MNR website mentions low head dams “Store a minimum amount of water below bank level, in the canal, and generally do not provide flood reduction storage”.
Martin said neither Gahan’s concerns about erosion, nor his question as to why a separate low-head dam a few miles upstream from Blackiston Mill is not also being removed, is relevant for removal. from the Providence Mill Dam.
“Change can be frightening, but it’s just the change that’s been around for about 100 years,” Martin said. “So that’s really the only negative you worry about. Aesthetically, I’m used to having a small reservoir upstream, and it won’t be once the dam is finished.
Martin says that while there will be changes in the flow of the creek and in the surrounding landscape, they will occur over time and will be monitored.
“After leaving the dam, over a few years, the silt will move, then you will see the normal rock bottom [and] native stream that was there before, ”Martin said.
Local and state authorities in Indiana have been pushing to make waterways with low-head dams safer in recent years, usually by removing them entirely or posting signs indicating the danger. More than 140 such dams still exist throughout the state.
Data from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security shows the state has the 10th highest death rate from low-fall dams in the country, with 25 occurring between 2010 and 2020.
Asked about the danger associated with low-head dams, Gahan said he was not ruling out the risk. His appeal is more procedural.
“I don’t think the MNR intends to do anything other than remove the roadblock,” he said. “They didn’t make a presentation. I think they have already made up their minds. But at the end of the day, I think it’s my job to make sure those involved know exactly what’s going on in New Albany.
The Indiana Natural Resources Commission will serve as the presiding body during the appeal process. Martin said the science is on the River Heritage Conservancy’s side and expects the appeal to fail quickly.