Friends of Sugar Creek

Sweeten: Creek showing signs of healthier life after dam removal

Dr. Jerry Sweeten, senior ecologist for Ecosystems Connections Institute, speaks about the Sugar Creek lowhead dam removal during the Friends of Sugar Creek annual meeting at the Hoosier Heartland State Bank Success Center on Thursday.
Dr. Jerry Sweeten, senior ecologist for Ecosystems Connections Institute, speaks about the Sugar Creek lowhead dam removal during the Friends of Sugar Creek annual meeting at the Hoosier Heartland State Bank Success Center on Thursday.
Nick Hedrick/Journal Review
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Sugar Creek is beginning to show signs of a healthier life with the removal of the old Crawfordsville power plant’s low-head dam, a consultant said.

The idled dam was demolished in September following years of concerns over boater safety and the health of the stream, which was impacted by lower water quality and the inability of fish to move freely.

“We know that these chunks of concrete aren’t meant to be in the stream,” said Dr. Jerry Sweeten, senior ecologist at Ecosystems Connections Institute, which advised the City of Crawfordsville on the demolition.

In remarks to members of Friends of Sugar Creek at their annual meeting on Thursday, Sweeten presented aerial photos of the creek before and after the dam’s removal, a four-day project that cleared more than 4,000 pounds of rebar from the water. FSC was one of the project’s partners and worked to raise awareness of the dam’s dangers.

An upstream gravel bar created by the dam has begun to erode, Sweeten said, and the heavy excavation equipment had barely rolled away before fishermen were back on the creek — a sign that fish habitats quickly began improving.

“So the stream, in just a few weeks, is already showing signs of returning back to what the stream is supposed to be,” Sweeten said. “And the biology will follow that.”

The demolition allowed for the reconnection of more than 1,120 stream miles of the creek, including tributaries and the entire basin, Sweeten said. The dam sat about 40 miles upstream from the Wabash River.

Sweeten’s team will return next summer for a post-removal fish and mussel survey. The bottom of the creek will also be mapped to determine the movement of sediment. A final report is expected by December 2022.

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