Columbus Audubon

Audubon in Central Ohio since 1913


Olentangy River Transformation at OSU

The Fifth Avenue dam near campusJay Kasey, Senior Vice President, Administration and Planning at The Ohio State University, announced that work will begin very soon on the Olentangy River Restoration Project. This project will involve removal of the Fifth Street Dam, which will restore a more natural flow to the Olentangy near the OSU campus.

Columbus Audubon applauds the decision to remove the dam. This change will improve habitat for birds and other wildlife in the campus area.

Here's the complete announcement from Vice President Kasey:

One of the more prominent natural landmarks on our campus is about to undergo an important, long-term enhancement. The Olentangy River restoration project, a cornerstone of the One University Framework Plan, is occurring even sooner than we expected. The end result is one we can all applaud: returning the river to a natural flow, which will improve water quality and the river's ecosystem.

Preparations for the multi-phase city of Columbus project begin this week and the removal of small sections of the dam to gradually lower the water level will quickly follow. By fall 2013, the Olentangy River between 5th Avenue and just north of Lane Avenue will be on its way to a picturesque transformation, with a new wetlands area developed on the west bank teeming with plants and wildlife.

The 5th Avenue Dam originally was used to push cooling water into Ohio State's McCracken Power Plant. But that function became obsolete long ago, making the removal of the dam a positive prospect for the city of Columbus, the Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio State and the entire surrounding community.

While we will eagerly await the final result, the process of getting to this transformed state will be equally as important to Ohio State. This river revival will yield a living-learning laboratory where teaching and research can and will thrive both during and long after the project is complete — a key recommendation of the Framework Plan. Some faculty are envisioning student projects centered on the river restoration, and others have asked about lending our university's vast expertise to the project. The restoration also will be a topic of conversation during the 4th annual EcoSummit, which Ohio State will host Sept. 30-Oct. 5. This international sustainability conference draws the world's brightest minds in ecological science, and the Olentangy River project is the perfect example of the conference's theme: how to restore the planet's ecosystem services.

As this $6.9 million project progresses, of which $2 million is coming from Ohio State, there will be many changes to the environment surrounding the river. Safety fencing will envelope the river corridor as early as this week and major excavation work will occur. As the water levels drop, more of the riverbed will be exposed. Despite the significant amount of work that will occur this fall, visual examples of the restoration likely won't be noticeable until next summer.

We'll work closely with the city and provide details and updates, see the project Web site. For a more detailed perspective on the environmental benefits of the restoration, visit the city's website.

This is the type of project that comes along once in a lifetime, but will benefit our campus environmentally, aesthetically and academically far into the future. We are proud to be a part of such a historic undertaking and hope faculty, staff and students alike will take every opportunity to learn and benefit from this experience.

Jay Kasey
Senior Vice President, Administration & Planning
The Ohio State University