City of Elkhart Dams




The City of Elkhart, Indiana requested that the Chicago and Detroit districts initiate a study that assesses the removal of Elkhart Dam on the Elkhart River and a small dam on Christiana Creek at High Dive Park. Elkhart, Indiana is located within the St. Joseph River watershed in north central Indiana. Several options were investigated; however, the most beneficial and cost effective means of restoring these two river reaches is to simply remove both dams.


Implementation of the preferred plan would result in nearly 50-miles of reconnected stream habitat and restored fluvial hydraulics for over 5,000-feet of river. Providing uninhibited access to habitat for native stream species is the impetus for this project. Removing impediments to native species will increase colonization of historical habitat that has been inaccessible for up to 150-years. A restored fluvial system with proper hydraulics and channel morphology would increase spawning, nursery, and feeding areas. Overall biotic integrity is expected to increase due to the implementation of the preferred plan. As an example, as soon as the Hofmann Dam was completely removed, the stream hydraulics upstream resurged, and along with this an additional 12 species were recorded where they were absent before the dam was removed.

There is no long term concern for benthic macroinvertebrates, especially mussels, due to sedimentation and water level changes. The material sequestered behind the dam is primarily coarse grained material of sand and gravel that would not impact mussel beds as it moves through the system. Coordination with the Indiana DNR indicated that during the period of construction when sediment will be let downstream there should be investigation of stranded mussels above the dam due to the water level dropping. This is more of a concern than sediment covering mussels because mussels have the ability to move and actually burry themselves in winter months beneath the river bed. The lack of bed material moving downstream of the Elkhart River has caused excessive channel incision below the dam as well, which has caused bank slumping and undermining of the City’s riverwalk. Returning the natural sediment transport will ameliorate this issue.


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The Feasibility Phase was initiated in 2010 and is now currently in Public Review from 13 November to 13 December 2013. Baring no issues that arise based on Agency and Public Review, the next step is to request approval for this study to move forward into the Design and Implementation Phase and the execution of a Project Partnership Agreement between the USACE and the City of Elkhart.