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Antiquated Ohio dam to be removed with grant money in 2025
 
By Celeste Baumgartner
Ohio Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio – As part of the new H2Ohio Rivers program, the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has been awarded a grant to remove the antiquated Riley Run dam in 2025. The dam is harming the health of the stream.
“The Riley Run dam is an antiquated dam outside the Village of Salineville that has been in disservice for about 60 years,” said Aaron Dodd, Jefferson SWCD projects manager. “The cost of the dam removal has been extremely high. Because we are in a distressed area of Appalachia, the village could not afford the standard maintenance of the dam.
“The dam is preventing wildlife like fish and macroinvertebrates from moving up and down the stream,” Dodd said. “It causes the water temperature to be warmer and the oxygen levels lower. We have the Eastern hellbender, a 20-inch-long salamander, and an endangered species, in this watershed. It’s impacting them as well. We’re fortunate that the H2Ohio program is funding the removal because otherwise it could not be done.”
The Jefferson SWCD is in the process of starting the Riley Run dam removal project which includes riparian restoration efforts such as tree planting. The total cost of the project is $775,000, and the grant will fully cover that.
Ohio has 60,000 miles of rivers and streams, 430,000 acres of wetlands, and 125,000 existing lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, according to the H2Ohio website. That’s a lot of water to keep clean. Gov. Mike DeWine launched the idea of H2Ohio in 2019. It is a comprehensive water quality initiative that is working to address serious water quality issues that have been building in Ohio for decades.
Such problems include harmful algal blooms on Lake Erie caused by phosphorus runoff from farm fertilizer, failing drinking water, wastewater, and home sewage treatment systems due to aging infrastructure, and lead contamination from old water pipes and fixtures.
The General Assembly supported the H2Ohio program, said Joy Mulinex, executive director of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission. The funding went to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), and the Ohio EPA, the agencies that were administering the program, that July.
The ODNR’s programs are focused on creating, restoring, and enhancing Ohio wetlands. ODA is committed to helping farmers reduce phosphorous runoff from commercial fertilizers and manure to prevent harmful algal blooms. The EPA’s role is to enhance water quality and improve public health.
“In November of 2019 farmers began signing up for practices focused on the Maumee River watershed counties,” Mulinex said. “That was where the scientists told us the most phosphorous was coming from. Fourteen counties were included.
“It took time for the contracts to be signed and implemented so practices on the farm fields began in the growing season of 2021,” she said. “The next year ODA expanded the program to include that entire Lake Erie Western Basin watershed. That was an additional 10 counties for a total of 24 counties.”
Those original contracts were for three years so this past year ODA has been working with those producers to renew the agreement from those initial 14 Maumee watershed counties, Mulinex said. In 2025 they will work with those additional 10 counties in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
“In April of 2024 the ODA and Gov. DeWine announced the next expansion and after ODA had done some training with the soil and water conservation districts in those other counties, they began enrolling producers on a statewide basis, Mulinex said. “They are currently processing all the applications that have come in.”
As the program became statewide, Ohio’s farm types changed as did the geography, Mulinex said. ODA is seeing more grazing and livestock operations so they are looking at whether anything will need to change.
However, for this original signup, authorities are signing producers into a voluntary nutrient management plan. They consider this to be the blueprint of what needs to happen on a farm. This includes getting soil tests and deciding whether different management practices are necessary.
“The contracts are being processed,” Mulinex said. “The ODA is feeling very optimistic about the response they are receiving from producers.”
Each farm is different and the best management practices they sign up for are different. The ODA has been focused on how to deliver the benefits for Ohio but also tries to minimize the complications for the producers themselves and the soil and water conservation districts – they are the “boots on the ground” managing these agreements and practices.
The H2Ohio Rivers program was also an overall expansion, Mulinex explained. Both Ohio EPA and Ohio DNR had been working on a statewide basis since the very beginning, but they started to encounter some water quality challenges that were more focused on Ohio’s river system as opposed to the work they had been doing.
“We’re fortunate that through the H2Ohio program they’re coming in and funding the removal because otherwise it cannot be done,” Dodd said.

7/9/2024