News Home
Quick Bites
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
On AirNewsClassical
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Metro RTA

Knight Foundation

For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )

Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us

De-constructing dams in Ohio means figuring out what to do with sediment left behind
Eco-engineering looks for new ways to deal with old problems

Tim Rudell
Dr. Mazeika Sullivan and Dr. Kristin Jaeger of Ohio State University.
Courtesy of TIM RUDELL
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Researchers in Ohio are expanding scientific understanding of how to handle a key infrastructure issue here and all over the country: the physical and environmental impacts of removing old dams from rivers and streams.  WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports.

LISTEN: Removing aging dams and the environment they've created

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (3:21)

Dams seem so permanent, such an unchanging part of the landscape. They are neither, especially when, as with many of the 4,000 in Ohio, they have some age on them.    

“Soil is not impermeable; neither is concrete, Water does leak through either one of those over a period of time," says Mark Ogden ODNRRodney Tornes, dam safety expert with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, His agency oversees most publicly and privately owned dams.

"As long as it’s under control, that’s fine.  But, you know, we want to make sure that those owners know, 'Hey, you’ve a problem here.' If it gets worse,  we may have to say, "Hey, you need to have an engineer look at this; a repair may have to be made. And yes, we do have the authority for the removal of dams as well.”

Geomorphology looks at aging dams
When a dam is torn down, the water is let go gradually to avoid flooding. But what happens to the ecosystems up and down stream? 

Two Ohio State University professors are among a new breed of researchers looking into that. Just north of Columbus, geomorphology specialist Kristin Jeager and ecosystems expert Mazeika Sullivan walk along the Olentangy River where they’re studying aging dams.

Specifically, the broad, and long-term effects of dam removal, Jeager says. “Relatively speaking, it’s a pretty new science.”

Years of build-up behind the old dams
The dam we’re examining here looks pretty old, and Jeager talks about whether the years of silt and debris behind it would, like the water, have to be released in a measured way if it were removed.  “We were just sampling there yesterday, and it's all mucky, fine sediments that would normally just transport downstream, but there’s a whole load of sediment that’s being trapped.”

Sullivan says that is a real focal point of the new research. “What we’re interested in from an ecosystem perspective is how these contaminants are redistributed once the dam is removed.  And how, for example, do they work their way through food webs.” 

New endeavor
For Jeager and Sullivan, that is an especially critical issue at this time in their new branch of scientific inquiry — which some media are starting to call ecological engineering.

 “It builds into our understanding of streams and rivers in a broader sense. We know they are connected, physically, biologically, chemically, from the headwaters all the way to the ocean”

Pointing the way
Sullivan says that knowledge should encourage what is already a growing trend toward removing dams that are no longer needed for water supplies, flood control and the like. The goal is for the nation’s rivers and streams to return as much as possible to a natural state.

“You know, rivers are ultimately the great landscape integrator. They’re integrating all the activities across the watershed. And so to restore rivers in this very broad sense is to take dams out. The way to do that then is how our science can help in the conservation and the management." 

About 150 dams around Ohio are currently being evaluated for removal, either because they have structural problems or to improve ecological conditions in streams and watersheds. 

Related Links & Resources
ODNR Dam Safety Engineering Program

Add Your Comment


E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook

Stories with Recent Comments

New options in Ohio for secular wedding ceremonies
Hello Mike, I support this action. I was not previously aware of the difficulty couples may encounter in locating officials to serve in their non-religious mar...

Charter reform bill includes controversial change for some teachers
I work for a former White Hat charter school; it was sold to another (for-profit) company this past summer and we were told that they would not pay into STRS/PE...

Bhutanese resettlement has had a big economic impact
Informative especially for nonmembers of North Hill. I appreciate the fact that you mention that the younger generation has an easier time than the elders but t...

Ottawa County Commissioner sworn in as new house member
Congratulations on your new appointment to the Ohio House. I'm certain you will do an outstanding job in your new role representing our district. When you have...

Holden Arboretum opens a new canopy walk and emergent tower
Visited the Holden Arboretum today to witness the incredible work you did constructing the tower and bridges.WOW! Very impressed. Knew the build had to be great...

Local club works to bring back the once-prevalent American elm
I would love to help! Where would I get some of the new Strain so I could plant them?

Four Geauga school districts consider consolidating on the Kent State campus
Berkshire was smart to merge with Ledgemont because it had shrinking enrollment and excess capacity at its high school. Now that Cardinal is dragging its feet ...

Ohio Rep. John Boccieri sworn into office and hopes to look for 'middle ground' with colleagues
Welcome back to the Statehouse, John. You are a terrific representative in the truest sense always representing the people's voice in teh district you serve. ...

Lawmakers call for indefinite freeze on Green Energy standards
It's a shame the Hudson Rep. Chooses to mimic the words of the extreme right senator on his way out to join ALEC when we know the Pope was just here because of...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University