Two low-head dams are due to be removed from Big Indian Creek, and the process could begin by this fall.

Cassie Hauswald, freshwater ecologist at The Nature Conservancy, said the project is in its "seeking permits" phase, which is extensive because of the work that will occur in flowing water.

Ecosystem Connections Institute will host an informational meeting about the project on Monday, April 8, at 6 p.m. at the Corydon Town Hall. The public is invited to attend.

Ecosystem Connections Institute is one of several partners working to remove the two dams. Other partners include The Nature Conservancy, Town of Corydon, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All have their sights set on two dams, about 2-1/2 miles apart, located east of the YMCA of Harrison County in Corydon. Both dams are upstream from a smaller dam that is visible from the town's north bridge along Old S.R. 135/North Capitol Avenue.

"Low-head dam removal, in general, is a great idea, and it's one that's gaining momentum in Indiana," Hauswald said.

Low-head or in-channel dams are a safety hazard to creek-goers, as the dams create strong backwashes beneath them that make escape nearly impossible. They can be hard to spot from upstream. A waterfall over a dam could sneak up on an unsuspecting canoer or kayaker and, if they go over it, they might be tossed into the dangerous flow.

Hauswald said dams can be an attractive nuisance for playing on and around.

Dams also are barriers to creatures that live in the water, including fish and freshwater mussels, which can become isolated from other parts of the stream. With the removal of the dams, more than 175 miles of stream habitat will be connected.

The project could make Indian Creek a viable habitat for hellbenders, a state-endangered species of salamander. As it stands, the hellbenders' only remaining natural habitat in Indiana is in Blue River, where Purdue University and Indiana DNR researchers have been carefully monitoring and augmenting their populations.

Hauswald said removing the two Corydon dams from Big Indian Creek, which originates just across the Floyd/Clark County line, will qualify the stream as a potential reintroduction site.

Corydon's town council approved the project in September 2017 contingent upon successfully seeking grant funding for the work. Most of the removal is being funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Fish Passageway Program and the Indiana DNR Lake and River Enhancement program. The Nature Conservancy also is bringing private funds as a match to the grants. The total cost of removing both dams, along with all the permitting and monitoring of the stream, will be about $275,000.

Hauswald said some people have raised concerns about flooding, but modeling shows that removing the dams will have no effect on flooding in the town and will, in fact, improve flooding upstream of the dams.

"Change is sometimes perceived as a negative, but, if you think about it, dams were the original change," Hauswald said.

Hauswald has done some research to better understand the original purpose of the two large dams but has not found a satisfactory answer to what that purpose was. She said she believes they were built in the 1960s, and according to some people, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but the corps does not have a record of the dams being built.

Dan Bays, the Harrison County historian hasn't been able to find any reference to the dams' construction either, she said.

"It'd be interesting to know who built those and why, or what they were thinking," Hauswald said.

Based upon the gates within the dams, it would appear they were built for flood control but were never used for that purpose, she added.

The Nature Conservancy's goals for the project are to capitalize on improving public safety and to improve the ecological health of Indiana's rivers and streams. Hauswald said this is a win-win project that "embodies practical conservation."

Hauswald hopes there's a good turnout for the April 8 meeting that is designed to provide general information as well as gather information.