Rebuttal: Reduced federal funding has not deterred ‘efforts to maintain and invest in our dams’

Englewood Dam. Source: Miami Conservancy District
Englewood Dam. Source: Miami Conservancy District

Credit: Miami Conservancy District

Credit: Miami Conservancy District

Note from Community Impact Reporter Amelia Robinson: A guest column by Steven Conn, a frequent Ideas and Voices contributor, with the headline “Region is a ‘sitting duck for a major flood event’ and Reaganomics is to blame” appeared in the Dayton Daily News Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2020. Conn was inspired to write his piece after reading the Aug. 17 article “Time talking toll on flood control dams” by Dayton Daily News reporter Chris Stewart. Conn is a W.E. Smith Professor of History at Miami University.

Guest columnist Steve Conn, Ph.D., recently contended that this region should be worried about a major flood due to “endlessly deferred maintenance on our (nation’s) infrastructure” and the age of the Miami Conservancy District (MCD) flood-risk reduction dams. 

ExploreIdeas: Region is a “sitting duck for a major flood event” and Reaganomics is to blame

Reduced federal investment in infrastructure is a long-term problem for the nation, but it has not deterred MCD’s efforts to maintain and invest in our dams. We have invested more than $20 million in infrastructure in the last 20 years, completing multiple capital projects to enhance the safety and stability of our dams. Now, we are working to rehabilitate/replace the concrete at the dams. Construction is under way at Lockington Dam in Shelby County as reported by Chris Stewart in last week’s Dayton Daily News and Hamilton Journal News.

ExploreINVESTIGATION: Time taking toll on century-old flood control dams

While most of the Lockington Dam concrete is sound, we must repair and replace deteriorated sections before they affect the dam’s integrity. There’s still a lot to do. We will need to analyze the concrete at the other four dams—Germantown, Englewood, Taylorsville and Huffman—and design and implement repairs for each.

Janet Bly is the general manager of The Miami Conservancy District. She is past president of the National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies.
Janet Bly is the general manager of The Miami Conservancy District. She is past president of the National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies.

Credit: Andy Snow

Credit: Andy Snow

Our nation’s infrastructure needs funding as do the MCD dams. The dams may need more reinvestment than should be absorbed by the people who currently fund them. The maintenance of and reinvestment to the MCD system of dams and levees is locally funded, paid for by the property owners, cities, and counties who directly benefit from the system. Funding should be a shared responsibility at the federal, state, and local levels.

Currently, there are few state and federal funding opportunities for locally owned dams. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, however, recently awarded MCD $850,000 to analyze structural stability and to design necessary concrete repairs at three of MCD’s dams. And more is needed.

MCD’s dams are part of a system that protects 47,000 properties in five counties; multiple hospitals; nearly 60 schools and colleges; hundreds of miles of public roads; and 1 million people who live, work, and visit communities along the Great Miami River.

Huffman Dam. Source: Miami Conservancy District
Huffman Dam. Source: Miami Conservancy District

Credit: Miami Conservancy District

Credit: Miami Conservancy District

Thanks to on-going maintenance, regular inspections, and reinvestment, our dams have successfully protected this region from river flooding for 100 years. We are working to ensure they protect the region for the next 100 years.

Janet Bly is the general manager of The Miami Conservancy District. She is past president of the National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies.