Will removing two dams on the Olentangy and Scioto change the city for better or worse?

The Fifth Avenue dam met the wrecking ball this summer. Its Downtown sister at Main Street will be next in 2014. The April announcement of the $35.5 million project led by nonprofit Columbus Downtown Development Corp (CDDC) is supposed to beautify the area with 33 new acres of green space, but the dam removal has some critics. Both sides agree it's a city-changing plan, but part ways on the outcome.

Will Downtown look different?

On one hand: The skyline will change for the better, says CDDC president Guy Worley. While removing the dam will narrow the Scioto River from roughly 600 feet wide to 250, green space will expand the bank and line much of Downtown's riverfront. Allowed to flow freely, water is expected to appear less brown once dredged.

On the other: The Main Street dam was completed in 1929 to create a reflecting pool to show off Downtown's skyline. Once the dam comes down, the pool will be reduced to less than half its current width. "That'll be an eye-opener for some folks," says Ohio EPA director Scott Nally, who supports the removal plan. "But, then again, that's more how it was naturally designed."

What happens during floods?

On one hand: Crews will clean and maintain the new green space, especially after floods, says Amy Taylor, CDDC's chief operating officer. Plans will be similar to those at North Bank Park, which is on the same elevation as the planned 33 new acres.

Campus Connection

The removal of dams at Fifth Avenue and Main Street will allow the building of a multiuse recreational corridor, connecting Downtown, Ohio State and northern neighborhoods, says Guy Worley, president of the Columbus Downtown Development Corp. New bike paths along the Scioto River will join with the Olentangy Greenway Trail, and kayakers will be able to paddle freely from Campus to the Scioto Audubon Metro Park. "The project has a regional impact," Worley says. "It could, over years to come, create a much larger recreational corridor all the way north to Highbanks."

On the other: "If you've been on the water enough, I can't emphasize the maintenance nightmare you're going to have," argues Bill Wentzel, owner of R&R Sports Headquarters in the Brewery District. Bike paths and landscaping could occasionally be submerged and then littered with debris, he says.

What about the fish?

On one hand: Fishing holes between the confluence and Main Street will be lost, local fishing guide Joe Jordan insists. He also fears a greater vulnerability to invasive fish, including spotted bass and Asian carp, which could overwhelm beloved game fish. "We are at a point where we need to build barriers, not take them down," Jordan argues.

On the other: Returning a man-made reservoir to a free-flowing channel allows water to clean itself and invites the return of native fish, Taylor says. The current low-head dam, Nally adds, doesn't impede the spread of acrobatic Asian carp.