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Fish are now thriving in the stream at Plum Creek Park in Kent following a major restoration project that has earned the praise of state officials.
Constructed in 1887 at what was then the Kent waterworks, the city-owned Plum Creek Dam had long outlived its original purpose when, in 2009, officials began looking for ways to solve the problems associated with the structure located in Plum Creek Park at the corner of Cherry Street and Mogadore Road.
"We had a failing dam, a silted reservoir and a culvert that was failing," said Cori Finney, a senior engineer with the city of Kent who oversaw the Plum Creek Park restoration project.
She said the pool that stretched through the park made a good home for geese, but fish could not live there in summer months because of a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water caused by higher temperatures. In the summer, the body of water also filled with rotting algae.
After considering multiple options, city officials decided removing the dam and restoring the stream to its original path would be the most fiscally and environmentally responsible long-term plan.
The city, working with Davey Resource Group and Arcadis as consultants, removed the dam in the summer of 2010 and created new stream banks out of the sediment that had accumulated in the pool since the last time it was dredged in 1978. The project was completed in 2011.
"The idea behind it was low maintenance -- to let the creek go back to its natural state" Finney said.
Since the project was completed, fish have returned to the area. Officials from the Ohio EPA teamed with the city of Kent to do a evaluation of the fish in the stream on one day in September and counted 2,122 fish, the majority of which were bluntnose minnows.
William J. Zawiski, environmental supervisor for the Ohio EPA, said the large amount of bluntnose minnows is not unusual as they are a pioneering species -- one of the first species to repopulate an area that previously did not support wildlife.
The count found 19 different species in the creek in total. The three other species with more than 50 individuals counted on the day were the white sucker, the greenside darter and the johnny darter.
The count also included sunfish and bass.
Zawiski said the city's effort was "one of the finest stream restoration projects I have had the opportunity to inspect," and noted that he would like to return to the park in 2013 to check on the progress of the stream.
Finney said the project at the park, with a $1.5 million price tag mainly made up through federal stimulus and grant funding, is now complete, although the city and state will continue to monitor the stream's progress.
"Plum Creek will continue to meander and create its own natural path over time," she said. "The amount of fish and the quality we got back so quickly is impressive. I'm not an environmentalist, but from what I've been hearing it's better than what they expected."
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