Below is the full text of Mike’s speech, in which he describes several large-scale water-conservation efforts the club has engaged in over the years.
I was asked to recall and describe some of the water-related efforts the Miami Group has made — over my not inconsiderable membership of 50 years!
This park – many members cleaned it up in 1986, including Marilyn Wall. Members of City Council showed up. We collected $13 worth of aluminum cans and a Volkswagen. In this we helped the Duck Creek Basin Improvement Association. This was the area of the Beechmont Drag Strip and part of the Norwood Dump, which included a truck submerged about four feet into the mud (festooned with plastic strip waste from a factory), and three kinds of tomato plants growing in Duck Creek from sewage overflows.
In the early sixties I became a marathon canoe racer and suddenly became aware of the beauties of rivers and threats to them, especially from the Ohio River Basin Commission, which liked dams. I joined the Club and went to see the ExCom in Columbus, and they commissioned me to look into the ORBC (probably in 1966). Ultimately we formed Rivers Unlimited in 1972, the first state-wide river protection group in the nation, and went forth to stop or prevent a number of big dams in Ohio. We got started too late to prevent the East Fork and Caesar Creek Dams. Then we went big-time and helped found American Rivers in 1973 in Denver, which was helpful to us locally because of the national experience the board and staff had. I’m sure there were Sierra Clubbers on our early board.
In the 1960’s and 70’s the Army Corps of Engineers changed the Ohio River from having 60 low-head dams to having 20 high dams, increasing the length of the pools and deepening the pools. In Cincinnati the pool depth went from 13′ to 26′, such that the alluvial soil was permanently wetted and eroded heavily, so that some of Route 8 in KY slid into the river, as did parts of Route 52 in Ohio. Our Congressman Bill Harsha said that by the mid-60’s there had been over $5 billion damage to roads, buildings, farms, fencing, and utilities. New Richmond and Moscow were badly hurt.
In the late 60’s the garageman who took care of our 1954 canoe-carrying hearse told us about Relocated US 50, a threat to build a superhighway in the Little Miami valley and cross the National Wild and Scenic River, replacing Wooster Pike (****** Wooster). Two of us went to Washington, DC to see USDOT – about 1974 – and object to the two-page environmental impact statement on the road and bridge project. They did the right thing.
Ohio DOT and OKI told lies and did all they could to advance the project, but collectively our groups made the issue increasingly unattractive. For example, the river had at one point moved 1000 feet over 50 years so no matter where they put a bridge pier it would eventually be in the river, which was forbidden. Over time, Sierra Club’s Wild & Scenic Group met once a month for perhaps 10 years, and has shown the project to be a real loser, so we may be finally free of it.
In 1993 two Sierra Clubbers founded the Mill Creek Restoration Project, which is becoming a local scenic bike trail through the industrial heart of Cincinnati, and is now known as Groundwork Cincinnati – Mill Creek – and taught some 50,000 students about water quality analysis.
Last, and perhaps MOST of all – the Metropolitan Sewer District – and Marilyn Wall and the consent decree requiring MSD to spend over $3 billion to comply with the Clean Water Act – Marilyn will gladly fill you in. Our system must not exceed pollution limits more than a few times a year, and billions of gallons of sewage overflow into the receiving waters of the Ohio River. Consequently, the big recreation boats go to the great Kentucky and Tennessee lakes for the weekends, where they don’t worry about water quality: The kids water ski, play on the beaches and swim with unconcern. After over 20 years….some day! Advise if you are interested!