Ohio River Foundation (ORF) has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to lead the removal of a dam on Long Lick Run, located approximately 20 miles south of Louisville. The dam was previously used as a backup water source for the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky owned by Beam Suntory, a leading distiller. Removing this dam and associated river restoration work will improve water quality, and fish passage, reconnect the upstream and downstream sections of the creek, and improve public safety.
“We applaud Beam Suntory for having the vision and ambition these integral river protection and restoration projects require. Removing these obsolete dams is crucial to environmental and public health,” said Executive Director of Ohio River Foundation Rich Cogen. “At ORF, we’ve created a straightforward process to help owners and communities raise the necessary funds to achieve the social, environmental, and economic benefits of barrier removal. We hope this project will encourage other owners to take similar action.”
Long Lick Run is a tributary of the Salt River and the Ohio River. The dam is approximately four feet high and 50 feet long/wide. The project is currently in the site assessment, permitting, and design phase. Dam removal will begin in late summer and is expected to be completed in late fall.
Removing this dam will reconnect the lower section to the upper of Long Lick Run and the 150 miles of the Salt River, restoring the creek’s natural flow. It will reduce erosion of adjacent riverbanks, eliminate the conditions that cause harmful algal blooms, and enhance the possibility for native fish and mussel species population increases in the reconnected segments of the Salt River watershed. Finally, it removes a dangerous recreation hazard.
“In partnership with ORF, it’s long been our goal to remove the dam near our distillery in Clermont,” said Kim Marotta, Vice President, Global Head of Environmental Sustainability at Beam Suntory. “We know that our products start with the blessings of nature, and Beam Suntory is determined to give back to nature. Supporting the removal of this dam is one step we can take to support nature in our backyard.”
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, the largest privately held contiguous forest block in the eastern United States dedicated to conservation and education, and Beam Suntory have shared a longtime partnership to improve water quality in Clermont and the Long Lick Creek watershed.
“Many of Long Lick’s headwater streams are protected within Bernheim Forest and managed to benefit biodiversity and clean water. Bernheim will work with ORF and Beam Suntory to use the dam removal project for site-specific educational programming focused on Long Lick Creek and healthy aquatic habitats,” said Bernheim Director of Conservation Andrew Berry.
Dams defeat the natural flow of life in a river. Whether it be fish species that need to spread populations throughout a river system to increase survivability or freshwater mussels that depend on fish migration to complete their life cycle, removing these barriers restores natural variability of river flows.
The Ohio River watershed is increasingly being inundated with nutrient loads far in excess of what it needs to provide sound environmental health. Unfortunately, the result is the production of algal blooms, like what occurs in the slack pooled water upstream of dams. These algal blooms are detrimental to the survival of aquatic species and can be hazardous under certain circumstances. Removing these dams eliminates the conditions that enable algal blooms to occur. Thus, river health is improved.