After Dam Removal:
The 5th Avenue Dam Removal Project was completed September 4, 2014. Today, the banks are filling in with native vegetation, while fish and other aquatic species are returning to the restored river channel. See our 5th Ave. Dam Removal Page for more information.
The section of the Olentangy between Dodridge Street and 5th Avenue is one of the most negatively impacted sections of the river. Nearly all of the river is a slack pool behind the 5th Avenue Dam. The 5th Avenue Dam was constructed in 1935 in order to provide a secure supply of water for the Ohio State University power plant. The power plant no longer generates electricty, but does create steam
for the university's central steam system using water from municipal
mains. There is a dike maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers on the eastern shore of the river for most of this section. The dike protects many important structures such as Ohio Stadium and the Battelle Memorial Institute from flooding, but also contributes to the channelization of the river. The slack water behind the dam is used by OSU's club crew teams, based out of the Drake Union Boathouse. This section of the Olentangy is also home to the iconic Lane Avenue Bridge.
Water QualityEPA water quality assessments are based on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the river. This section of the Olentangy River is classified as "non-attaining” for a warm water habitat. There are several prominent Combined Sewer Overflow locations in this section of the river, which contributes to high pathogen and fecal coliform bacteria counts. Repairs to the aging sewer system in the Old North Columbus Neighborhood which were completed in 2009 should help to reduce these dangerous pathogens. Based on data collected in 2003 it is also classified as “non-attaining” for personal contact recreation. In other words, it is not advisable to swim in this section of the river. FLOW reccomends the removal of the 5th Avenue Dam, largely because slow moving water impairs the aerobic digestion of waste from CSOs and SSOs. Additionally, removal of the dam would allow the river to take on a natural riffle and pool structure that would ensure a more high-quality habitat. There are some fears of releasing heavy metals and other dangerous sediments from behind the dam, so sediment removal may have to be considered similar to the project recently undertaken on the Cuyahoga River in Kent, Ohio.