Lisbon asked again to demolish dam

LISBON – Village Council is considering demolishing the dam at Willow Grove Park after rejecting the idea two years ago.

Officials from a federal and state agency attended this week’s council meeting to ask the board to reconsider its 2011 decision, saying they are hoping to come up with a plan to demolish the dam without the village having to contribute a dime.

“The important thing for all of you to know is there’s no cost to the village,” said Deborah Millsap, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Two years ago, Lisa Butch of the Little Beaver Creek Land Foundation asked council for permission to seek a grant to cover the estimated $250,000 cost of demolishing the 5-foot-high dam that spans the Middle Fork of the Little Beaver Creek and performing some landscaping to prevent erosion.

At that time, officials from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources told council removing the dam would restore the natural flow to the creek by eliminating a half-mile pool of slack water created above the dam and, by doing so, improve the habitat for fish and other aquatic life.

Council originally approved the plan but rescinded its support a month later after a petition drive was begun on behalf of people who fish from the dam and others opposed to the project.

This time council seems more receptive to the idea, passing a resolution of support by a vote of 5-1, with Councilman Joe Morenz continuing his opposition from 2011.

Council will meet again 6 p.m. June 28 to consider acting on a formal proposal giving the state and federal agencies permission to proceed with developing a plan.

William Zawiski, an environmental supervisor with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said the movement in recent years has been to remove these old dams that no longer serve any purpose because studies show free-flowing streams are healthy streams and attract a greater variety of fish.

“A lot of folks who fish will discover improved quality,” he said.

Officials said some of the funding for the project could come from a “compensatory” settlement resulting from the Nease Chemical Superfund site located about 10 miles upstream of Willow Grove Park. The first settlement involved the removal of sediment from a section of stream contaminated with mirex, a chemical produced by Nease. A second settlement in the negotiating stage would cover compensatory damages, and that could include money for the dam demolition project.

State officials indicated they would also try to have additional money included in the settlement to build a bridge across the creek, linking Willow Grove Park and Lions Club Road. A swinging bridge existed at the park for years until it was swept away by the 2004 flood.

Council wondered what impact removing the concrete dam would have on the mirex and was told the mirex levels found in the sediment at the park were so low that it was insufficient to require mandatory removal. The level of mirex contamination in the creek has dissipated over the years and was significantly less farther downstream from Nease, with the fish advisory lifted in 2007, except for carp caught near the plant.

Sheila Abraham, a risk management expert with the OEPA, said they are required to hold public hearings on the proposed demolition before council would be required to give its final approval.

“We’re here to talk, but we’re not here to push anything on anyone,” she said.

A series of dams existed in Lisbon to serve various mills that once operated along the creek, but only the one at Willow Grove Park remains. It is believed to have been built in the 1950s just for the park.