Vonderheide Act – Ohio Conservancy Law

Note: Due to the current events across the country, there are a lot of questions about the potential for flooding in the Dayton Area. Our next few posts will address those concerns, and share a little bit of the history regarding floods in the Dayton region.

“To forever protect the lives and property of the people of the Miami Valley from floods; to fix the charges against those who are benefited, and nobody else; to reimburse everyone who is in any way damaged through the construction of such works as may be necessary; to pay a just price for all property in any way injured; to complete the work in the shortest possible length of time”

After the flood waters died down and the full extent of the damage was realized after the Dayton Flood of 1913, Dayton was ready to prevent something of this magnitude from happening again. Arthur Morgan, a hydrological engineer, was hired. Morgan recommended constructing a series of dams on the Great Miami River, and to modify the existing river channel through Dayton.

Supported by James M. Cox, The Ohio Conservancy Act, aka The Vonderheide Act, was passed in 1914. Ohio now had the authority to establish watershed districts. This law gave the Conservancy District the right to collect taxes, borrow money, condemn land, and do the necessary work to accomplish flood protection. This caused a lot of controversy at the time, as many farmers felt their land was being taken unfairly through eminent domain. The Gaver-Quinlisk bills opposed the plan, arguing that the dam and reservoir system was not practical for the Miami Valley.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Vonderheide Act in its entirety. Under this act, dams were surrounded by Metroparks instead of residential homes, to reduce damage in the event of a forced flood. Later reviews of this law have considered it the “most perfect statute that has even been put upon the statue books of any state in the Union” for its fairness to all concerned, and its ability to accomplish its purpose.

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