Friday, December 4, 2015

Meanwhile on the West Fork ...

Fairfield Marina
The damming of the East Fork of the Whitewater River was part of a much larger overall approach to reduce flooding and soil erosion across the entire body of the Ohio Valley.

Smaller reservoirs and retention areas were studied across several counties, as far north as Milton in Wayne County, southward across the Laurel and Metamora region where unruly creeks frequently did more damage than the rivers did.

Bob Terry, writing in December 1965 for the Cincinnati Times-Star:

"Clouds of red, white and blue smoke from explosions on a hillside along the East Fork officially started construction of the Brookville reservoir. And that isn't the half of it."

A groundbreaking ceremony in Brookville stole show, but "plans are afoot for similar flood control work in the West Fork of the river in Franklin County."

The term "similar" was misleading since no large reservoir was being considered. Instead, the targets were smaller tributaries.

"Details are being studied and will be announced," Terry reported.

Studies of the potential benefits for watershed installations on the West Fork had been ongoing for nearly four years and tended to bog down from time to time, resulting in mixed messages about whether the idea itself made any economic sense.

Small retention ponds scattered across Fayette, Union and Wayne counties were on the table.  An obvious assailant to success was the diversity in scope of the project. According to one newspaper report:

"Unusual circumstances had been uncovered in the  preliminary study of the watershed on the West Fork and that as of this date, no basis for the establishment of the economic values of the structures had been arrived at."

What began as a plan to create 18 earthen dams eventually was pared down to two dams.

Much of the legwork for watershed programs came though various county Soil and Water Conservation departments, and in 1965, a consensus established a series of potential small reservoirs along the West Fork.

A few of them were: Williams Creek near Connersville (684 acres), Simon Creek near Cambridge City (680 acres), others near the towns of Alpine in Fayette County; Hagerstown and Greensfork in Wayne County; Lynn in Randolph County.

A 24-acre lake was proposed for Bear Creek in Franklin County.

By comparison, the lake at Whitewater Memorial State Park south of Liberty is about 220 acres.

The creation of a conservancy district was necessary to move forward on administration of the projects.

It was classic bureaucracy.

Elsewhere, reservoirs were being built in Decatur and Shelby counties.

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