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Plans to build fish bypass and dredge behind Riverside Dam waiting on federal funding

The proposed project would remove up to 40,000 cubic yards of sediment that have built up behind the dam and in the former reservoir.

FINDLAY, Ohio — Findlay's Riverside Dam has been a landmark in the city for more than a century, but some changes may be coming.

The dam was first built in the late 1800s to help ice harvests upstream, then, it was used to form a reservoir for the city. Now, it's holding back water for recreation purposes, offering kayaking launches from Zonta Landing. And it has become a local spot for fishing, photos and more.

But now, decades of sediment buildup in that stretch of the Blanchard River has become an environmental risk, Lauren Sandhu, watershed coordinator for the nonprofit Blanchard River Watershed Partnership, said.

"That reservoir is so filled with sediment that it used to be about 7 to 8 feet deep. Now it's only about 3 or 4 deep," Sandhu said. "And when we don't have much rain and those water levels go down, boating is definitely affected."

So, both the city of Findlay and Hancock County have each pitched in $80,000 to plan for a large-scale dredging project to remove up to 40,000 cubic yards of sediment.

And the BRWP has applied for federal grants that would pay for the installation of either an in-stream or out-of-stream bypass to allow the 50 species of fish in the Blanchard to be able to pass the dam.

"With the dam being as historic as it is, and with it being important in keeping those river levels up behind the dam for recreational purposes, removal of the dam is not desired," Sandhu said.

Credit: Jon Monk
Up to 7,000 visitors use Zonta Landing, near the Riverside Dam every year.

Local leaders believe these upgrades would not only help in water quality regionally but further improve the stretch of the river as a tourism destination.

"I think just improving the water quality in that area and being able to encourage more people to use it for recreational amenities, it's going to be a great step forward," Findlay Mayor Christina Muryn said.

BRWP officials said they will know by the end of October if they've been awarded the grant funding for the project. 

And if awarded, pre-construction would begin in December of 2022, with proper physical construction starting up in early 2024.

Credit: Jon Monk
Riverside Dam was initially built to deepen the Blanchard River upstream for ice harvesting.

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