The Miami Conservancy District, a regional river management agency whose mission is to control flooding along the Great Miami River and its tributaries, was formed in 1915 in response to the devastating Great Dayton Flood of 1913. The agency is funded primarily by assessments paid by local property owners, and protects lives and property by managing the levee system and five local dams, while also preserving water resources and promoting the enjoyment of local waterways.

“Our overall focus is public safety, prosperity and quality of life for the region,” says Janet Bly, general manager of the Miami Conservancy District since 2002. “We do that under the realm of water—our overarching goal is to ensure that water is an asset and not a threat to the region.”

While managing the dams and levee system was the MCD’s original mandate, the agency has over the years branched out to meet a wide variety of the region’s water needs. Today, the MCD works hard to help preserve the quality of water in the area through monitoring, testing and education. The agency has also been involved for many years in promoting recreation along area rivers and streams, and owns or maintains 35 miles of area recreation trails for biking, skating, walking, and jogging.

“We work on protecting the region against the risk of flooding—that’s why we were created after the 1913 flood, to form the regional flood protection system,” says Bly. “We protect over 47,000 parcels of land and the system has worked successfully since it was completed in the early 1920s. We also work to preserve local water resources, so we engage in various activities, public education, studying and monitoring of water in the region. Then the third part of our mission is promoting the enjoyment of the waterways, promoting recreation and community development related to the waterways.”

In addition to the rivers and recreational trails managed by the agency, the most visible testaments to the MCD’s existence are the five local dams managed by the agency: the Englewood, Germantown, Huffman, Lockington and Taylorsville Dams. All five dams are dry dams, meaning they were built for the purpose of flood control, and all were constructed between 1919 and 1921 using the old fill trestle method of earthen dam construction.

“The dams really work on their own,” explains Bly. “We maintain them and make sure that they’re stable. A lot of people think that the river flows through the dams and we open and close gates, but we don’t. There are what we call conduits, which are concrete tunnels that were built through the dams, and the river flows through there—but because they’re a size that doesn’t change, they can only handle so much water at a time. So when we have a lot of rain the excess water stores back behind the dam and then flows through the conduits as it can. So the dam slows down the amount of water that gets into the river channels downstream where the cities are.”

Whether keeping the Miami Valley safe from floods or managing the area’s many water-related recreational opportunities, the Miami Conservancy District is a valuable area resource enhancing the quality of life here in Southwest Ohio.