Located on the main branch of the Thames River in southwest London, Springbank Dam was constructed at this site in 1929 to replace a dam located a short distance upstream (east). The original dam had been built to provide water power for pumping to a water reservoir at the top of the hill to the south. A steam plant was built in 1882, fortunately, since this dam was washed out in the spring of 1883. It was also washed out in 1899 and 1917. Between 1917 and 1929, there was no dam at this site.
A dam was constructed at the current site in 1929 to create a local water supply reservoir and provide recreational opportunities. The water supply was obtained by tiling the area that is now Springbank Park and conducting the water in two canals parallel to the river. The land was purchased to protect the water source area from pollution. Over the years the area was developed into a beautiful urban park.
Traditionally, Springbank Dam holds back water for six months each year from approximately May 24th until early November. The reservoir is a popular setting for a variety of passive and active recreational uses, including canoeing, fishing, cycling and walking.
The dam is owned by the City of London and is operated by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) for recreation, and to minimize the impact of the dam and reservoir on flood management and fisheries.
Springbank Dam Rehabilitation Project
The purpose of the Springbank Dam Rehabilitation is to ensure the safe operation of Springbank Dam. Studies in 2000 and 2002 recommended that the dam be rehabilitated to meet provincial dam safety requirements. The rehabilitation project includes repairing erosion protection that was damaged in the flood of July 9, 2000 Thames River flood, replacing failing stop logs with gates that will be less prone to blockage by debris, and repairing other aspects of the dam such as the concrete.
Top Priorities for the Rehabilitation Project
Improved Public Safety
Safety of people and property remain the priority of the UTRCA. The Springbank Dam structure is in poor condition and requires upgrading and repair to ensure that it does not compromise the UTRCA flood control system. Various public safety upgrades are also proposed as part of the project.
The UTRCA promotes a healthy environment and wishes to ensure that the project proceeds in a manner that does not, in any way, degrade the health of the ecosystem.
The rehabilitation of Springbank Dam is an inclusive project. Various stakeholders have been involved in the project through the EA process and through stakeholder participation in the Science and Engineering Technical Committee initiated by the City of London.
- July 2007: Construction at Springbank resumes. Project scheduled to be completed in fall ’07.
- April, May and June 2007: As required by MNR, all construction activities in river ceased to allow for spring fish migration.
- February 2007: City of London issued a press release indicating that, due to weather-related delays, construction will not be complete in time to allow filling of the Springbank Reservoir for the normal 2007 summer season.
- Fall 2006: Construction progress slowed by high water levels. The Thames River average flow at Byron over the month of October 2006 was the highest ever recorded in October (since records began in 1922). The November 2006 average flow was the fifth highest November on record, and December 2006 average flow was the second highest December on record.
- September 2006: Construction started on the rehabilitation of Springbank Dam. A construction tender was awarded by the City of London in August 2006 to MacLean Taylor Construction Ltd. of St. Marys, Ontario. Hatch Acres of Niagara Falls are the Consulting Engineers overseeing the construction.
- August 2006: Updating of Agency approvals, Tender approval by the City of London.
- June 2006: Tender release by the City of London.
- April to June 2006: Fish Passage Baseline Studies undertaken by Biotactic. Study supported by City of London, Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, Ministry of Natural Resources, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
- October 2005: The rehabilitation of Springbank Dam, which was set to begin on October 1, 2005, has been postponed due to developments including but not limited to: delay in the issuance of work permits; need to assemble more baseline data for fisheries assessment; dramatic increase in the project costs due to recent developments. The intention is to implement this project in 2006. Options for next year are being studied by the City of London and the engineering consultant. The City of London is reviewing the project budget, which may rise significantly due to postponement. The City is currently seeking additional funding from Provincial and Federal partners who were originally sharing the costs in 1/3 portions. The UTRCA is pleased that the City of London has gained an extension to the project’s timeline as it will allow more time to assess the fish movement at Springbank Dam.
- September 2005: Fish Passage Monitoring Framework completed by Ministry of Natural Resources with input from SETC.
- November 2004 and continuing: SETC information-sharing leads to discussion on fish passage at existing dam and for proposed gate rehabilitation project at dam. Field investigations by Committee members are initiated to inventory species and distribution.
- October 29, 2004: Science and Engineering Technical Committee (SETC) initiated by the City of London, chaired by the Ministry of Natural Resources, to investigate issues raised about fish passage at the structure and potential for a fishway.
- August 3, 2004: UTRCA hosts stakeholder meeting regarding fish ladder issue at Byron Public Library.
- January 2004: Environmental assessment completed; public and agency review period ended January 12, 2004.
- October 22, 2003: Environmental assessment open house/public meeting held at Byron Public Library, London.
- August 2003: Project description report and class environmental assessment report completed.
- 2002: City of London received funding to rehabilitate the dam and repair the failed erosion protection through the Ontario Sports, Culture and Tourism Program and the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program.
- May 2, 2002: Dam Safety Assessment completed by Acres International (now Hatch-Acres). Report identified the need for better debris passage, improved operational efficiency, and repairs to the portions of the dam damaged in 2000.
- July 9, 2000: The dam is overtopped during a flood due to debris accumulation, damaging the south bank and raising concerns about the safety of the structure.