Kayakers approach a bank along the Eel River as people with inner tubes walk behind them near Riverside Park in Logansport on Tuesday, May10, 2022. Staff photo by Jonah Hinebaugh
Kayakers approach a bank along the Eel River as people with inner tubes walk behind them near Riverside Park in Logansport on Tuesday, May10, 2022. Staff photo by Jonah Hinebaugh
Two dams, two plants and two million dollars have changed the landscape of Logansport along the Eel River.

Almost a year after Logansport Utilities began their demolition of the former water treatment plant, the project ended with the removal of the nearby power generating plant’s smokestack last month.

The demolition of the plants paves the way for redevelopment and a shift in the landscape of Logansport. Though, as of now, there are no concrete plans in place for what will become of the land that used to host them. Logansport Utilities Superintendent Greg Toth said the land will be redevelopment ready as soon as they’re completed.

In between those removals, the two dams situated on the river were also taken out with the help of groups like the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Fish Passageway Program and the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Lake and River Enhancement Program.

The most immediate effect was the river shrinking to a size that was closer to what it was before the dams were created, which exposed the sand on the banks adjacent to Riverside Park.

“That’s (the) natural flow of the river you’re seeing right there, so we put it back the way nature intended it and it’s flowing beautifully,” Toth said. “They’re telling us that it’s healing properly and that by summertime should be a great river to recreate and be near. I am proud that we could do it and give it back to the city and it’s just been a big success.

“Both plants, in 2012 and 2016, were decommissioned and really were obsolete and environmental and safety hazards,” Toth said. “It was thought best to budget and save and we did that and ended up getting some grant money as well as some salvage money.”

The project has led to a safer place to recreate as well as the potential for development, according to those involved with the project.

Dr. Jerry Sweeten, a senior ecologist at EcoSystems Connections Institute who helped oversee the removal of the two dams, said the three main benefits to it are safety, recreation and ecology.

“At the toe of those dams would be hydraulic circulation, (and when) someone gets caught because they tried to go over a dam or they get too close, then they get trapped in that and they can lose their life very easily,” Sweeten said.

Sweeten said dams also impede the movement of fish and mussels up or downstream. Contrary to complaints voiced by residents about the dam removal, Sweeten said it can also lead to better fishing opportunities.

“We know that loads of dams, like the one in Logansport, become almost biologically nonfunctional, relative to what it should be for a stream,” he said. “I’ll use the Logansport dam as an example: behind the dam was sort of a flat plane where the water was maybe three feet deep, and for fish that live in a stream, that’s not a normal kind of place that they would want to live.”

Moreover, Sweeten said he thinks the river has found where it wants to be in terms of size and flow which was aided by increased water levels from melting snow and rain. The removal also helped reduce the floodplain for the areas along the Eel River where the dams were near.

“People do get attached to things,” he said. “They remember liking this or that better or (worry) the fishing isn’t going to be good. (They think) ‘Well, it’s been there forever, and why would we want to take it out?’

“My response is, well, it hasn’t been there forever. It has been way more years without it than it has been. Maybe 150 years or so, and the rivers have been around far longer than that.”
© 2022 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.