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Barrier dam protects Mill Creek Valley from floods

Posted at 4:30 AM, Feb 26, 2018

CINCINNATI -- With flooding continuing along the Ohio River, there's a major tool in place to keep more water from seeping into the city. 

Inside the Mill Creek Barrier Dam pump station, eight large pumps are ready to keep the Ohio River in its place. 

Cincinnati stormwater management engineer Eric Saylor said they're the "most critical pieces of infrastructure the city owns and maintains and operates."

The Mill Creek Barrier Dam is one of the largest structures of its kind in the country. Last Sunday, when the Ohio River level was approaching 52 feet, flood operations at the facility were activated. 

"We actually block off the Ohio River from flooding the Mill Creek Valley," Saylor said. "And then we pump the Mill Creek water, force it into the Ohio River."

The Army Corps of Engineers built the dam in 1948 to protect the city following the devastating flood of 1937. Without it, $3 billion worth of property would be in jeopardy. 

"It prevents the Queensgate area and all the Mill Creek Valley from being impacted by the flood," Saylor said. 

Barrier Dam 2018 Flood Event from Cincinnati Water on Vimeo.

Between two to four pumps have been running simultaneously to control the water. At 70 years old, the facility is in good condition, according to Saylor. But plans are in the works for a capital improvement. 

Before the current flood, the barrier dam was last activated in 2015. Before that, it was 2011, the wettest year on record in Cincinnati.