Columbus seeks $200k grant for work on dam

The City of Columbus will apply for a federal grant that could mean up to $200,000 to work on the failing dam on East Fork White River between the Second and Third street bridges.

The Redevelopment Commission agreed last night to apply for the grant, which has an application deadline tomorrow. The city had to agree to provide a dollar for dollar match for the grant, but there were some strings attached. Heather Pope, the city’s redevelopment director, said that the grant was through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and would only come into play if the eventual solution for the more than 100 year old dam improved the ability of fish to travel up and down the river.

As of yet, the city has no approved plan for what it wants to do with the river, but the informal consensus is that the dam must be removed or repaired because it is causing erosion on the city’s former dump site on the south west bank of the river. That area is a federal EPA Superfund site.

Commission member George Dutro said he had reservations about the grant application because of concerns that it could obligate the city to take actions it normally might not. He said, for example, since the city has not decided on its course of action with the dam he did not want to commit to removing the dam. He also said the city had not concluded that improving the passage for fish is a priority for the project.

Ultimately, the commission agreed to apply for the grant but not to accept the money if it didn’t meet the city’s needs.