The timbers from the old grist mill dam construction are visible at the Collamer Dam Monday. An underwater breach in the 115-year-old concrete dam has developed near the north side of the Eel River bank. Photo by Teresa Carrano
The timbers from the old grist mill dam construction are visible at the Collamer Dam Monday. An underwater breach in the 115-year-old concrete dam has developed near the north side of the Eel River bank. Photo by Teresa Carrano
COLLAMER – The long standing low head dam at Collamer, just south of the town, off Ind. 14, has developed a breach and the Eel River is pouring through the hole, causing more erosion to the 115-year-old cement structure.

The first wooden dam was built in 1845 to provide power for Ezra Miller’s grist mill. The current dam was built in 1904 to provide electric power to Collamer and Sidney.

A fisherman noticed a small whirlpool on the east side of the dam Thursday. The whirlpool grew and it was soon discovered the river was funneling under the dam.

Over the weekend, owners Mike and Denise Conner made valiant efforts to secure the structure. Assisted by a host of volunteers, 500 sandbags were dropped into the breach. The sandbags came out the other side. A huge feed bag  was filled with sandbags and dropped into the gap but the relentless river water found a way around it.

IDNR aquatic biologist Rod Edgell said Monday morning there are funds available to completely remove the dam, but that process doesn’t happen overnight and the Conners must apply for the grant.

Any construction along the river can only be done by permit, Edgell said, and there haven’t been any applications submitted for the work.

A steady stream of visitors stop by the dam to tell stories about outings to the dam. At one time a conservation club maintained a park and banks were open to the public.

Because of the current  danger, access to the dam has been fenced off and lined with police “do not cross” tape on the south side.

Tuesday, South Whitley town marshal Mikel VanDevender said the Conners are discussing options with the IDNR’s division of water.