Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments


Two rivers in northwest Ohio show dam remediation can improve habitat.


On the Ottawa River, just off Secor Road in the Village of Ottawa Hills, a 15’ tall concrete dam prevented movement of fish and other aquatic life and posed a safety risk . When first built, the dam was intended to create a pond in the river’s floodplain. That pond never really developed and the dam served no useful function. Its size also made the river dangerous and the area was fenced to reduce access.

In 2009 the dam was knocked down and the entire site was made safer and more accessible. Stream banks that were deeply eroded were stabilized with plants and single stone placement. The adjacent floodplain area was also planted with native trees and shrubs. Stones were also placed to provide cover and resting areas for fish and to make stepping stones across the river, and provide places to sit near the water’s edge. Now the site is an attractive place that invites recreation and allows fish to move freely. The design should also allow the river and floodplain to manage seasonal floods better than when the dam was in place.

Before After
Before After

On Swan Creek at Highland Park, a long, low dam prevented free movement of fish and created an attractive hazard for people. It was tempting to walk across the dam but a strong flow of water on the low side could trap people or knock them down. This dam could not be removed as it is actually a concrete encased active sewer line. It had to be remediated in a different way. Tons of rock were placed to make a gradual drop from the dam to the natural river bed. The rock was arranged to create pools where fish can rest and to reduce velocity of the water, making the river safer for people and more accessible for water life. The area around the dam was also landscaped with native plants selected to thrive in the damp and shady riparian area.


Before After
Before After

Ottawa River & Swan Creek Project Comparison

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