View time-lapse video of Tait Station low dam removal

Work on the removal of the Tait Station low dam is progressing nicely. At the end of October, the project was more than 75 percent complete and is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is fully funding the $1.75 million project to remove the Tait Station low dam.

With the low dam removed, water will cascade over a riffle of stones, creating a more picturesque experience. Removal of the low dam:

  • Will improve river safety and river access along the Great Miami Riverway.
  • Is expected to improve water quality as well as habitat for fish, insects and birds that live in and along the river.

Watch a time-lapse video of the project through Sept. 30.

No “silver bullet” to improving Great Miami River water quality

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water monitoring and analysis

Drastically reducing nutrient discharges from wastewater treatment plants won’t be enough to further improve water quality in the Great Miami River from Troy to just downstream of Fairfield, Ohio. That’s what a study, funded by 15 regional wastewater treatment plants and cities, showed.

Excessive nutrients in water (nitrogen and phosphorus) fuel excessive growth of algae and are a leading cause of impairment to biological communities in rivers and streams. Nutrients above natural levels in rivers and streams come from human sources, primarily agricultural fertilizers and municipal sewage.

The Miami Conservancy District (MCD) and the 15 partners chose LimnoTech, an environmental science and engineering firm headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan to complete the study. The company developed a water quality model and ran scenarios to look for potential improvement to river quality, specifically from decreased phosphorus discharges.

The model relied on many sources of data including water-quality data collected by MCD’s hydrology team. In addition, the model incorporated a Hydrologic Simulation Program — FORTRAN (HSPF) model, developed by the United States Geological Survey and MCD, to simulate tributary watershed flows.

An important objective of the project was to ensure that the model developed to represent water quality in the Great Miami River was scientifically sound. Three internationally recognized water-quality monitoring experts reviewed the model and endorsed it as “state of the science.”

Treatment plant upgrades won’t do enough
LimnoTech’s modeling study suggests that technology upgrades to 13 municipal wastewater treatment plants would reduce phosphorus levels in the Great Miami River downstream of Troy. But the improvements wouldn’t be enough to stop excessive algal growth which can cause large swings in oxygen levels and threaten aquatic life in the river.

photo of Island Park Dam with an algae bloom in 2012

An algae bloom at Island Park low dam in Dayton during the summer of 2012.

Another important finding of the study is that no dissolved oxygen measurement collected at a single point in the river is representative of the entire river channel. There is wide variability across the channel and at different upstream and downstream places. Therefore, no single point measurement should be relied on to determine overall river health or to set water quality goals.

River quality high but more improvements challenging
Excessive algal growth negatively affects the river’s health. Even when the model simulates drastic reductions from wastewater treatment plants, algal levels in the river remain too high to show significant improvement.

The study results don’t point to a realistic, cost-effective solution to improve the river.

It appears there’s no silver bullet, no single step that will fix the problem.

It’s likely some combination of reductions in nutrients from agricultural fertilizers and wastewater treatment plants will be necessary to resolve excessive growth of algae in the Great Miami River and reduce nutrient loads delivered downstream to the Ohio River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

MCD is working with Limnotech to further the research to determine the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen reductions necessary to reduce algal communities in the Great Miami River.

MCD facilitated the study, and provided technical support and water quality data. The partnership also included: the cities of Dayton, Englewood, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Miamisburg, Middletown, Springboro, Troy, Union, and West Carrollton; Tri-Cities Wastewater Authority on behalf of the cities of Huber Heights, Vandalia, and Tipp City; and Montgomery County.

Read the entire study. If you have any questions, please contact me.

Tait Station low dam removal begins today

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager for watershed partnerships

The project to remove the Tait Station low dam begins today. Here are the latest details on the project.

Q: Why is the Tait Station low dam being removed?
The low dam is being removed for several reasons:

  • To improve the quality of the river and make better habitat for bugs and fish.
  • To eliminate a clear and present threat to public safety for those who enjoy recreational use of the Great Miami River.
  • To avoid costly repairs that are far higher than any benefit the low dam provides.

Q: Where is the dam located?
Tait Station low dam is located in Dayton, Ohio on the Great Miami River at River Mile 76.6  just downstream of the University of Dayton Arena and the Carillon Historical Park.

Q: What are the benefits to removing the low dam?
Removing the low dam will improve the ecological conditions for aquatic life, improve river safety, reduce maintenance costs, improve river recreation access, and improve the scenic beauty of the Great Miami River.

Q: How big is the dam?
The low dam is approximately 600 feet in length. The low dam is a concrete structure with flashboards across the crest to maintain the pool level above the concrete spillway.

Tait Station low dam

 

Q: What will the river look like after the dam is removed?
Hydraulic modeling of the Great Miami River after the dam is removed shows that the water depths will be only slightly lower than current conditions. A new rock structure, called a riffle, will be created across the river channel to enhance fish habitat.

Q: Who owns the dam?
The Miami Conservancy District (MCD) owns the low dam. Tait Station was constructed around 1935 by Dayton Power and Light. The dam was originally constructed to provide cooling water to support power plant production. The power plant was decommissioned in 1983. Ownership of the low dam transferred to MCD in 1990.

Q: Does the dam provide flood protection for Dayton?
The low dam does not provide flood protection, however the low dam area is located within MCD’s flood protection area. Levees are present on both sides of the river.

Q: How much would it cost to repair the dam?
The cost estimate to repair the low dam is between $5 and $8 million.

Q: How much will it cost to remove the low dam?
The total estimate cost to remove the low dam is about $1.75 million.

Q: Who is paying for the dam to be removed?
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is fully funding the project as a mitigation solution for unavoidable stream impacts in the Great Miami River Watershed.

Q: When will the project be complete?
October of this year, depending on weather and unforeseeable conditions.

Q: Who are the project partners?
ODOT is providing project funding, design, permitting, engineering and construction. MCD is providing technical support, background data, site access, funding and support for the project. The City of Dayton, Department of Water is providing utility coordination and utility relocation. DP&L is providing utility coordination and site access.

For questions or more information contact:
Sarah Hippensteel Hall, PhD
Manager, Watershed Partnerships
shippensteel@MCDWater.org

Using a market-based solution to improve water quality

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, water resources manager
Guest contributor

Although water quality in our rivers and streams has seen great improvements over the past few decades, about 40 percent still fail to meet water quality standards. Excess nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus — are a main cause. This failure is triggering additional regulations focused on wastewater treatment plants that could lead to rising costs for consumers like you and me.

More than 70 percent of the land that drains to the Great Miami River is used for agriculture, so the majority of nutrient-related water quality challenges relate to farming practices. Agricultural producers have worked diligently to implement conservation practices but financial incentives at the federal, state and local levels don’t match the demand.

Collaborative Solution
So a partnership among MCD and federal, state and local partners began in 2004 to find a better way to improve water quality at a lower cost. The result was a market-based Trading Program that reduces nutrients in streams and rivers as an alternative to traditional regulatory strategies. Farmers are paid to plant cover crops, install streamside buffer zones, and manage fertilizer application and manure storage to keep nitrogen and phosphorus from running off land into rivers and streams.

partners listMore than $3 million in funding for this pilot program came from wastewater treatment plants, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Miami Conservancy District manages the Trading Program, conducts extensive monitoring and publishes reports on levels of nutrients in the Great Miami River to track program results over time.

The success of the program has drawn international attention.

photo of buffer strips

Cover crops help reduce nutrient runoff.

 Economic benefits
An extensive economic and market analysis was completed before the pilot began to understand the costs and benefits. The analysis estimated that wastewater treatment plant upgrades could cost $422.5 million for the communities in our region – costs that could be passed on to customers.

The costs for agricultural conservation practices to achieve a similar level of nutrient reduction were projected at only $37.8 million, a potential $384.7 million savings compared to wastewater treatment plant upgrades.

It was estimated that on average, wastewater plants would pay $23.37 to reduce one pound of phosphorus using technology upgrades at the plant compared to $1.08 using agriculture conservation practices. For nitrogen, wastewater costs were $4.72/pound compared to $0.45/pound for agriculture.

The analysis concluded that water quality trading in the Great Miami River Watershed has the potential to provide significant cost savings with increased environmental benefit when compared to traditional regulatory approaches.

Current Status
As of March 2015, 467 agricultural projects have been installed, with farmers receiving $1.76 million to implement them. These projects are expected to reduce 626 tons of nutrient discharges to rivers and streams and achieve other benefits, including more sustainable farming operations and additional environmental improvement.

Originally expected in 2005, the additional regulations on wastewater treatment plants are not yet in place but are anticipated. As the Trading Program moves from pilot to implementation, a group of 14 soil and water conservation districts in southwest Ohio recently formed a joint board and are taking steps to assume management of the program.