Flood Menace - Opposition to Vonderheide Conservancy Act

A long political battle followed the passing of the Vonderheide Conservancy Act. Farmers in the counties to the north of Dayton whose rich agricultural lands were to be flooded by the dams rigorously opposed the plan. They challenged the constitutionality of the Act in the courts and attempted to amend it with the Garver-Quinlisk Bills. They argued against the plan based on the following issues:

  • The law had wrongly established a political sub-division whose Board of Directors had the power to tax and move railroads, bridges, and roads
  • The Vonderheide Act had greatly underestimated the costs and amount of land needed (38,000 acres opposed to the opposition’s estimate of 70,000 acres
  • The dam and reservoir system was not a practical plan for the Mad River and Miami Valley
  • The dams and reservoirs would flood cities such as, Tippecanoe City, Troy, DeGraff, Lewistown and Lake View, Osborn, Medway, Tremont, and Bowlusville, that normally would not have been subject to flooding
  • The historical policy of Ohio had been to drain flooded land and get rid of water as soon as possible, but the Vonderheide Act was in complete opposition to that history because the plan intends to hold the water in reservoirs
  • The Vonderheide Act called for everyone to pay taxes that would be used to benefit all the communities in the Conservancy District, however those opposed to the Act argued their tax dollars should only go to pay for efforts in their own community.

In a book published in 1915, Reasons Why the Garver-Quinlisk Bill Should be Enacted, the opponents to the Conservancy Act wrote, “The Dayton people exhibited no picture of any work on their part by way of cleaning out the channel or removing obstruction; neither did they show, nor can they show, any picture of a Detention Reservoir used to back up water on fertile lands for protection of their land, and while we do not wish to intimate that our neighbors in the city of Dayton, by enactment of the above prevision, or by authority conferred by said section, hope to reap some benefit from the erection of dams and reservoirs in the Miami and Mad River Valleys, by the utilization of the water for power in their municipalities, and at the expense of the property owner about said dams, and included in any such district, yet such is possible, for by the provision of said Act they would clearly have the right to utilize said water, so impounded, for purposes other then protection against flood.” In the same book they wrote, “The Act, as it stands, should be entitled; ‘An Act to prevent floods in one part of the country by producing floods in another part: and, in order to accomplish this, to deprive the people of the locality of all voice in the matter.”

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Obstructing the Way

3640 Colonel Glenn Highway, Dayton, Ohio 45435. Phone: (937) 775-2525