With Dams Removed,

an Urban Creek Recovers

Three small dams were removed from Baldwin Creek, a tributary of Lake Erie in Berea, Ohio, increasing oxygen in the creek, lowering water temperature, and benefiting aquatic life.

Description

Development severely altered Baldwin Creek, which runs through the City of Berea and into the East Branch of the Rocky River, which empties into Lake Erie near Cleveland. The creek was channeled and moved from its historic creek bed. A series of small dams blocked fish passage, damaged habitat and trapped debris. The three low-head dams impeded fish passage in the lowermost mile of Baldwin Creek, impacting the state-threatened Bigmouth Shiner. The presence of the dams also contributed to problems with sedimentation, high water temperatures, and low oxygen levels in the river, all of which harm fish and wildlife habitat. In 2001, local officials began forging plans to remove the dams to improve the ecology of the creek. The dams were obsolete, crumbling and costly for the city of Berea to maintain. By 2013, the three dams had been completely removed and benefits were already being seen in the water quality. In 2012, the water temperature in July was measured at 75.3 degrees Fahrenheit. By 2013, after the dams were removed the July water temperature had dropped to a cooler and healthier 68.8 degrees.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of native habitat
  • Altered stream flow
  • Ecosystem fragmentation 

BALDWIN CREEK DAM REMOVAL

Baldwin Creek in Ohio after a dam was removed

Baldwin Creek can now flow naturally with the dam removed, allowing fish and wildlife to move throughout the area. Photo credit: Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District.

Results and Accomplishments

Removing the dams restored the creek’s natural flow, removed barriers to fish passage and restored in-stream habitat for fish, including the state-threatened Bigmouth Shiner. The faster flowing water has increased the dissolved oxygen in the creek and lowered the average temperature—both changes benefit native aquatic life. Indeed by 2014, at least 15 different species of fish were found living in the creek.