The two dams on the Eel River should be gone by this time next year, and a walleye migration should happen along it in spring 2022.
On Tuesday, the Logansport Municipal Utilities Board voted unanimously to remove both the larger dam located at 10th Street and the three-foot dam located about 200 feet downstream from it.
It was the third meeting to get citizen input and discuss taking the low head dams out of the river, the first being in February and the second in September, after waiting until it was safer to have residents come comment.
Logansport Mayor Chris Martin, who’d been at the meetings, released a statement Wednesday approving the board’s actions and stating that he believes anyone who attended the meetings would support the action.
“I trust the experts,” Martin stated, referring to Jerry Sweeten, the retired professor who runs Ecosystems Connections Institute and has studied the Eel River and dams for his career.
Utilities Board President Jay King said the meetings changed his mind.
“I was in favor of examining this subject,” King said. “My gut reaction was that I was against it.”
Before the city can begin work on removal and have the dams out by next fall to early winter, the next step is to get three permits from the national and state levels, including the Army Corps of Engineers.
Sweeten said there will be 31% less flooding with the dams gone, removing about 25 acres from the 100-year-storm floodplain. That would be at Riverside Park and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Also, with the river at normal speed, the ice jams in winter won’t happen, and walleye and other fish should start appearing after a year, Sweeten said.
The two dams are some of the last on the river.
A Manchester University study states there were at least 14 dams on the Eel River, built in the 1800s for things like mills and water collection. Eight fell on their own. The Stockdale Dam near Roann and the two in Logansport are the only ones that remain — a second, much smaller dam crosses the Eel River between the 10th Street Dam and the confluence with the Wabash River.
King said that the Logansport dams were originally used for collecting drinking water, and even though they’re not needed anymore, the city still has to maintain them.
The board estimated in September that it costs $150,000 to $200,000 every 20 years for upkeep and looking for holes in the dam, which requires hiring an outside specialist
“We effectively have a choice: either we spend money to remove the dam or we pay to keep up the dam,” King said.
However, the cost will be picked up primarily by grants, Sweeten said.
The Utility Board will pick up the rest, but it won’t increase utility rates.
People have had concerns about the removal, including the fear that Asian carp would work their way up the river.
Sweeten presented scientific studies done on the Logansport dams areas that stated the carp will likely prefer to remain in the Wabash River, which is slower and warmer, and if they venture into the Eel River, they won’t stay long.
Some were concerned about potential collapse of retaining walls or “sea walls” if the river is changed, similar to around Monticello where Lake Freeman levels have been lowering for most of the summer.
Sweeten said they haven’t seen that happen since the first dam was removed in 2012 at North Manchester.
Others spoke in favor of the removal.
Kelly Spencer, who lives near the Eel, said he has seen the improvements removing a dam has made for property he owns in Missouri.
It looks good, and — despite his concerns about the removal’s effects on wildlife — the fishing is great, he said.
Logansport Parks Administrator Jan Frawley read a resolution from the Parks Board in favor of removal and potential recreation opportunities.
No dams would allow those traveling by kayak, canoe or tubing to go up or down the river without stopping to carry their vehicle around the dam.
There could also be boat ramps put in at other parks.
Her concerns weren’t just recreational.
“One of the most important things, I think, is that public safety will be improved,” she said.
A reason that the state is removing low head dams, also called weirs, is because of public safety.
Logansport has had incidents by its dams.
The last one in the Pharos-Tribune archives was from June 2016 when firefighters rescued two teenage girls from a log jutting out of the 10th Street Dam.
In June 2011, a 16-year-old boy dove head first off a log near the dam and reportedly told emergency workers that he couldn’t feel anything below his waist.
There were at least three other incidents that year involving the 10th Street Dam.