Sandusky River watchers have long ago grown weary of the debate over the future of the Ballville Dam. We have been submerged in an endless whirlpool of political flotsam and jetsam on this issue, and it continues to go nowhere.
The Ballville dam might have been a good idea when it was built 100 years ago. Flood control was a major motivation, with some hydroelectric capability and a water supply for the city of Fremont, but a portion of that service contract expired before many of us were born, and the rest of it has grown increasingly suspect.
After it was placed in the river, the dam put a roadblock in the path of Lake Erie walleye pushing up the Sandusky to spawn. The fish eventually settled on less desirable spawning grounds below the dam, near downtown Fremont, and their reproduction rate plummeted.
As the dam has aged, deteriorated and out-lived its purpose, the fish are still severely limited in their instinctive march to produce the walleye of the future. The Ballville Dam has not received any significant attention ? cosmetic or otherwise ? in close to half a century. It has been even longer since it sent any juice through the power lines.
As Fremont officials have engaged in a prolonged and sometimes clumsy wrestling match with the future of the dam and the construction of a reservoir to provide the city with the safe and reliable water source it needs, the walleye wait.
In this case as in many with a political fray involved, indecision is the enemy of progress. Although a number of studies have concluded what has been painfully obvious to many Sandusky River loyalists for years ? that the dam needs to come down ? some in the decision-making chain are still resistant to that effort.
It hasn't helped that the construction of the new reservoir has, at times, looked like the Keystone Cops were turned loose with bulldozers and earth movers. The troubled project has dominated any water/river discussions as of late.
The bottom line remains the same, however ? that the dam should be removed. It was more than a year ago that the state offered up $2 million in grant money to help pay for the removal.
The intent of that grant was to restore the natural habitat of the Sandusky River and "expand the spawning grounds" for the walleye population. Those conclusions didn't come from political hacks or spin-crazed lobbyists ? they came from biologists and fish experts, folks who own a pair of waders and know how to use them.
A meticulous, in-depth study done by environmental science professionals from Ohio State provides all the evidence anyone should need.
The review said that with the Ballville Dam out of the way, "10 times the spawning habitat" would be available to walleye in the Sandusky River. With that exponential increase in spawning grounds, walleye reproduction rates up to the larval stage would likely increase seven-fold, the study concluded.
Those are their words, not mine. This is pure science, minus the political hogwash. You don't have to be a tree-hugger, a free-flow advocate or an armchair hydrologist to understand that the dam is dinosaur without a museum.
If the powers involved manage to get off their rickety soapbox and start the demolition of this crumbling bulwark, nature will take care of the rest.
When the dam went up, the fish simply adapted, and sought out new spawning grounds. When the dam comes down, they will do the same. Open the gate, and those fish will find their way to the best spawning areas the Sandusky has to offer. No dam or man-made barrier can erase that indelible imprint in their DNA.
Matt Markey is the A-T outdoors columnist.
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