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Conservancy District leader: Why our rivers are so valuable

MaryLynn Lodor.jpeg  Lodor recently served as chief operating officer/deputy director of the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, a Cincinnati and Hamilton County metro-area wastewater utility that provides sewer service to about 230,000 households and businesses.
Miami Conservancy District
Lodor recently served as chief operating officer/deputy director of the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, a Cincinnati and Hamilton County metro-area wastewater utility that provides sewer service to about 230,000 households and businesses.

In early May, MaryLynn Lodor began her tenure as general manager of the Miami Conservancy District. She oversees the agency’s operations, strategic planning, and staff and financial management. But it’s the conservancy’s mission to protect the property and economic vitality within the Great Miami River Watershed that excites Lodor the most. For Lodor a big part of the job is connecting the river communities along the Great Miami to the resource they have.

MaryLynn Lodor: One hundred years ago, when the Miami Conservancy District was formed, it was formed as a result of the 1913 flood. So many of those communities, river communities, were impacted greatly and very negatively by the great flood of 1913 that just devastated so many communities. And so, because of the conservancy district and the support that it received, the infrastructure was built to put the levees in place and the dams. And 100 years ago, that was also a time where many communities, river communities, were almost turning their backs on the river because of the fear and the destruction that happened back in 1913.

As we have progressed over the last several decades, and in recent years, many of our river communities are recognizing the fact that we don't have to turn our backs to the river. We need to certainly respect it and recognize the fact that water is incredibly powerful and, set it up in a sustainable way with the right infrastructure that continues to get investment that is maintained properly. Then there are so many more opportunities for recreation and economic development in a responsible way that balances the assets that we have with the communities that we have along the river. So, the river communities of the Miami Valley are very fortunate to have a very resilient infrastructure that the Miami Conservancy District operates and maintains. And in the next several weeks and months, that's the big issue for me to make sure that those assets are ready to take on what the future holds.

Our mission at the Conservancy District is to have unfailing assets, and the assets that we have are over 100 years old. They're very good. We take care of them. We're identifying needs and issues that we need to address and in the last 25 years or so, we have had a dam safety initiative. We've invested about $30 million into repairs and improvements to those assets, but we're not done. And I'll be looking very carefully to make sure that we are able to leverage both our resources that we have locally with those that might be available at the state level or the federal level as well. So, we can try to get even more value out of the work that we're going to be doing.

Jerry Kenney: The conservancy district's mission to protect the assets presented by the Great Miami is a big one. What would you like to see from the people who make up the river communities you've talked about? What can they do to help offer that protection?

ML: What the Miami Conservancy District would like to see out of folks who live in the region is to recognize the fact that we have a tremendous asset of the Great Miami River. It's actually one of the most improved natural waterways in the state. It's seen a lot of increase in the amount of fish and macroinvertebrates. And it's a safe place to get out when you respect water. I always want to make sure that folks understand you need to respect water. You need to have safety protection devices on and whatnot. But it's a great opportunity for people to get out. We have the Great Float coming up in Miamisburg to West Carrollton on July 14 and then there's also various partners that are going to be going out in the next several months to do some clean sweep to pick up trash and debris along the river. And organizations can sign up to participate in events like that or individuals can participate in those kinds of events as well.

JK: MaryLynn, a lot of your career has been all about serving sustainable water systems and supplies. What about that work drew you to it?

ML: It's a great question and it really kind of goes back to I really have a deep appreciation for water resources and the connection and the importance it has to making our lives whole. I really think that we need to have a connection to our local environment, and ultimately, in my opinion, the cleaner it is, the more sustainable it is, then I think the healthier the community and the economic vitality of our region is. And so, I think we do have a great resource and it can only make our life and world better if we respect it, we honor it and we take care of it and we try to turn our front doors to the water, to the river. And it's a real opportunity, again, because we have the flood protection system that we have and it is 100 years old, but it is a very sustainable one and one that we need to continue to make investments in. So, that's why I'm really excited to be able to have a role and a place to make these investments and help people understand the value of the water that we have in the Great Miami River Valley.

JK: MaryLynn Lodor is the general manager of the Miami Conservancy District. MaryLynn, thank you so much for your time today.

ML: Thank you very much, Jerry. I really appreciate it.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials. In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.