A crucial barrier against sea lamprey intrusion, Harpersfield dam fix runs into big problem

(Photo by Jeff Frischkorn)

An already delayed $7 million project intended to prevent the invasive sea lamprey from migrating further up into the Grand River and its tributaries has encountered another snag.

Harpersfield dam is part of Ashtabula County Metroparks’ 53-acre Harpersfield Covered Bridge Park. It is located off Route 534 and just south of I-90 in Ashtabula County’s Harpersfield Township. It is an enormously popular steelhead fishing spot and an upstream jumping-off place for canoeists and kayakers.

And the dam serves as an effective barrier against supplemental upstream intrusion by sea lampreys. If the 117-year-old dam were to fail, this action would allow the invasive species nearly 1,300 additional miles of main-stem and tributary spawning grounds.

Thus a joint, local, state and federal project began to work on preventing the aged structure from experiencing a catastrophic failure. Project partners include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Ohio DNR, the Ohio EPA, and the county parks system.

A moderately heavy rain event Dec. 21st saw the dislodging of two expensive coffer dam bladders at the fabled Harpersfield dam. These bladders were installed in early November above the dam and its adjacent iconic covered bridge.

The two heavy-duty, synthetic-fabric, multi-chambered, water-inflatable devices – each costing upwards of $30,000 – were sent over the dam as a result of the rain-induced high water. One of the bladders became deflated and wrapped itself around a cover bridge support. Meanwhile, the other bladder scooted about 150 to 170 yards downstream, where it came to rest in the middle of the Grand River, stuck on the stream bed.

A third coffer dam bladder remained in place above the dam, extending from near the north bank.

For more details, see the Jan. 18 issue of Ohio Outdoor News.

Categories: Ohio – Jeffrey Frischkorn

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