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Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Wabash River dams pass inspection

By Nancy Allen
Three dams built on the Wabash River to control residential and agricultural flooding were deemed to be in good shape following a tour Tuesday by local and state officials from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Jim Will, district conservationist for Mercer County, Jim Bennett, district conservationist for Darke County, and other state NRCS officials participated in the tour along with Wabash River Conservancy District board members Wally Broering, John Fortkamp and Don Schoenlein.
"It went fine," Will said of the tour. "The main purpose is to take a look at the three dams to make sure they are all still safe and not in any danger of breaking down."
The river has three earthen dams, built in the early 1960s, The first is south of Eldora Speedway in Darke County, the only to contain water year-round; the second is on Watkins Road between Township Line and Post roads in Mercer County; the third is off the east side of State Line Road south of Barger Road in Mercer County.
Will said NRCS engineers had a few suggestions for conservancy members, including cutting down a few, small dead trees growing at the base of dam 3, filling groundhog holes in dam 2 and clearing a few small areas of brush in the river.
Will said the conservancy also may want to speak with Eldora officials about moving a fence on the property line between the race track, which also is the edge of the emergency spillway at dam one.
"If it (emergency spillway) runs very full, it could cause the water to swirl and eddy and move and weaken the dirt on the emergency spillway," Will said, adding that the matter does not need immediate attention.
Will said he can only remember one time (1998) in the last 20 years that the emergency spillway had water in it. The emergency spillway routes excess water around the end of the principal spillway and into the river to keep the dam from overtopping during events of extremely heavy rain, Will said. It is a safety feature built into all NRCS dams.
Normally the Wabash River dams are inspected in the fall, but officials this year checked them in the spring to beat a deadline imposed by Congress to have inspection reports on all dams nationwide filed by this summer.
Conservancy members also were told to begin sending annual dam inspection reports to the state NRCS office in Columbus, rather than just keeping them on file locally, Will said.
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