Darbies in central Ohio being encroached upon by development
Rumors are flying around my area about new housing developments that threaten the ecosystem of Big and Little Darby creeks. The creeks run through Central Ohio, touching western Franklin and eastern Madison counties. Both waterways are designated state and national scenic rivers.
I recently talked to Bob Gable about the rumors. Gable heads the Scenic Rivers Program for the Ohio DNR. And he set a few things straight.
First of all, the rumor that the DNR has signed off on a 25,000-acre development with 11,000 housing units near Big Darby Creek on the Madison-Franklin county line is false, Gable said.
The City of Columbus has filed paperwork with the Ohio EPA to run water and sewer lines to the Village of Plain City in northeastern Madison County. The village’s sewage plant is dated and needs significant help. Improved public utilities would not only clean up the current mess, but would also allow Plain City to expand north, south, and east toward Columbus.
Any proposal to run water and sewer lines between Columbus and Plain City would mean traversing under Big Darby Creek. That would require ODNR approval and input by the agency’s geo-survey division. But no one has come to the agency seeking any such approval, Gable noted.
The plan to run utilities from Columbus to Plain City is currently tied up in the lengthy EPA approval process and there’s no indication it will become a reality anytime soon.
One project that the ODNR has approved involving the Darbies will run water and sewer lines from the Village of West Jefferson under Little Darby Creek to a site lying east where Kroger wants to build a mini-mart grocery.
It’s possible folks are confusing that project with the Plain City utilities effort, Gable explained.
Extending the pipes under Little Darby means using a type of drill lubricated with fluid. That fluid could pose a threat to the creek’s delicate ecosystem, he noted.
Experts from the ODNR geo-survey division will make sure the drill runs deep enough and has a firm layer of clay overhead to prevent any upward seepage of fluid into the stream.
Big and Little Darby Creeks comprise one of the most biologically important ecosystems in the Midwest. The waterways contain about 38 rare species of fish and mussels – some not found anywhere else.
In 2004, 10 cities, villages, and townships that lie near the creeks agreed to a plan, called the Big Darby Accord, that protects both creeks and their tributaries from irresponsible future development.
Whether that plan “holds” as the City of Columbus grows to the west remains to be seen.