About two years after Richmond received funding, demolition began on Weir Dam.

The Whitewater River already flowed Sept. 27 through a gap in the 10-foot-tall, low-head dam as three excavators, two with breaker hammers, broke apart the concrete. The noisy hammers sometimes harmonized as they cut into the dam, creating pieces moved by an excavator’s shovel.

Curious residents gathered along the banks and on the suspension bridge connecting Sim Hodgin Parkway with Wayne County Veterans Memorial Park. Some took photos or video of the activity.

The Whitewater River flows through an area where the Weir Dam has been removed Sept. 27. Photo by Mike Emery

Flat Land Resources received a $106,960 contract in January 2022 for the demolition work. The city of Richmond had received in fall 2021 an $83,200 grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and a $76,862 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the dam’s removal.

The century-old dam was built to divert cooling water to a city-owned natural gas plant that no longer exists. Recently, the dam provided a safety hazard. Strong, recirculating currents threaten to drown those drawn to walk on the dam.

In addition, unrestricted river flow plays a vital part in the city’s activation plans for the river and Whitewater Gorge. Canoeing, kayaking and tubing are uses expected when the water flows freely.

The dam’s removal also is expected to help fishing. Although many people fishing caught fish in the pool just south of Weir Dam, the dam’s absence is expected to increase fish passage and restore a healthy river ecosystem that will increase fish population and the variety of fish present in the river.

Earlham College geology faculty members and students have analyzed the impact removing the dam might have on the river’s water because of sediment built up north of the dam. Their analysis two years ago showed less of a threat than expected, and they monitored the situation during demolition.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 4 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.