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$6.9M dam construction to ‘kick start’ Mother Nature

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

Construction on the Fifth Avenue dam began this month, the first phase of the $6.9 million project is expected to be complete by the first week of September.
The project is aimed at restoring the natural flow of water to the Olentangy River in the area between Fifth Avenue and slightly north of Lane Avenue.
The construction is part of the One University Framework Plan, a “structure for guiding change over time,” according to the OSU website. The Framework is a long-term plan to aid in making crucial decisions about all different realms of campus life at the university.
OSU contributed $2 million to the project because of this connection. George Zonders, a spokesman for the Columbus Department of Public Utilities, said “the majority of the project, both time and investment wise, comes from restoring the river bank area,” and the actual removal of the dam is not what’s driving the cost.
“There are definite environmental benefits to removing the dam,” Zonders said.
Jessica D’Ambrosio, program manager of the Ohio Non-Point Source Education for Municipal Officials, a program of OSU extension that has acted as a liaison between the city of Columbus and OSU throughout the planning process, said the dam will look more natural.
“Another benefit is increasing recreational activities,” she said. “We can create easier access to the river after restoration.”
The project is split into two phases, the second of which will take place about a week after the first. The removal process will only take two weeks, but will be completed in small sections at a time to gradually lower the water level and minimize downstream impacts, according to an OSU press release.
After the construction is completed, a two-year restoration project will begin that will eventually make the highly visible campus area attractive again, Zonders said.
“Over the next few years, you’re going to see a variety of changes that will maybe give Mother Nature a little kick start,” Zonders said.
Zonders said there will be “some active channeling of the river to encourage … plant and animal life,” meaning that workers will guide the river in certain directions to best facilitate natural growth in the riverbank area.
Some students were frustrated when they heard about additional construction near campus.
“More construction is annoying. It’s a pain to have to walk around and see,” said Samantha Burrell, a second-year in environmental science. “It’s ugly.”
Michael Griffith, project manager, said in an email that aside from a little traffic, the actual construction should have a minimal impact on students’ daily routine.
“You will see increased truck traffic along Cannon Drive and Olentangy River Road and the connector streets between,” he said. “Once the project progresses to north of King Avenue, the contractor will be moving equipment and materials across the bike path at select locations. This will require that traffic along the path be stopped for short periods of time, 15 minutes maximum.”
But Griffith said students will gain more from the project than extra construction traffic.
“The project affords potential teaching and research opportunities for faculty and students. Research could include soils testing, groundwater impacts, post-project monitoring of water quality, aquatic/riparian habitat and channel stability,” he said in an email.
The two-phase project is expected to be completely finished by next fall, according to an OSU release.

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