ENGLEWOOD — These steps up the side of the Englewood Dam, from a postcard made in the 1930s, look just as steep as the current steps, although less sturdy. In fact, the entire area looks less developed than the current scene.
After the Flood of 1913, Dayton residents formed the Miami Conservancy District (MCD) and hired Arthur Thomas to design and build dams to prevent a future catastrophe. The five dams: Englewood, Germantown, Huffman, Lockington and Taylorsville dams, have succeeded controlling flood waters for almost a century.
MCD’s flood protection system of five dams and retarding basins, along with 55 miles of levee has protected cities along the Great Miami River since 1922.
Many dams continuously hold back water either for recreation or power generation. MCD dams are “dry dams,” with no permanent pool or reservoir behind them. The land behind MCD dams is normally dry and only stores floodwater after heavy or prolonged rains.
Each earthen dam has large concrete openings (conduits) at the dam’s base. During normal flows, the river runs through the conduits unimpeded. When the river rises above the top of the conduit, water begins to store in the retarding basin upstream. The conduits allow through only the amount of water the downstream channel can handle.
During periods of extreme high water, it can take up to a few weeks for the retarding basin to drain the backed-up floodwaters. Combined, the five retarding basins take up 35,650 acres of land. Much of this land is used for recreation and agriculture. MCD has flooding easements and building restrictions on this land.
The flood protection system is designed to manage a storm the size of the Great 1913 Flood (9-11 inches of rain in three days across the 4,000-square-mile watershed) plus another 40 percent.
MCD engineers routinely inspect each of the dams. The state of Ohio also inspects the dams on five-year cycles.
On Wednesday, April 11, the Randolph Township Historical Society will present a program in which Brenda Gibson, public relations manager of the Miami Conservancy District, will tell the story of the dams, along with rare photos of the workers’ towns built at the dam construction sites (one of which is located in Englewood), photos of the dams being built, and the stories of the people who built them. The program, which follows the 7 p.m. business meeting of the RTHS, will begin about 7:30 p.m. at the RTHS History Center, 114 Valleyview Dr., Englewood. Admission is free of charge and open to the public. Guests are also welcome at the business meeting and can enjoy refreshments after the program.