An Integrated Geomorphic, Hydraulic and Ecological Assessment of Dam Decommissioning along the Thames River in London, Ontario

Presentation Overview

The Thames River is one of the largest rivers in southern Ontario, and is an important natural, cultural and recreational feature that flows through the City of London.

In 2016, the City initiated an Environmental Assessment to determine the feasibility of implementing various infrastructure projects in conjunction with others, such as potentially decommissioning Springbank Dam.

Springbank Dam has been operating since 1870, providing consistently high water levels for a range of recreational uses. In 2008, one of the newly installed steel gates failed during testing, leaving the dam inoperable. The river has since been free-flowing, allowing more sediment transport and vegetation growth, creating a new upstream aquatic environment. The lower water levels have allowed more than 10 hectares of vegetation to inhabit the floodplain, strengthening the newly formed channel banks.

Study components included the assessment of hydraulics, geomorphology, ecology and fisheries. Field studies included bathymetric surveys, geomorphic assessments, channel substrate characterization, aquatic habitat mapping, fish population studies, and shoreline vegetation studies.

Desktop studies included two-dimensional hydraulic modelling, ecological constraints mapping, and channel morphology evolution mapping.

Hydraulic models were used to support the characterization of existing geomorphic conditions, assess erosion areas, define physical habitat, and assess flooding potential in public access areas.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand how rivers naturally adjust to dam removal, specifically in urbanized environments.
  • Learn how to develop holistic approaches to stream restoration and natural channel design to balance recreational, economic, environmental, and infrastructure needs.
  • Understand how to use 1D and 2D hydraulic modelling to support erosion and sediment transport to predict channel evolution.


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