Akron Beacon Journal
By Emily Mills
BRECKSVILLE, Ohio — Another dam on the Cuyahoga River is coming down in the next few months.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded an $800,000 grant to the Northeast Ohio Four County Regional Planning and Development Organization (NEFCO) to remove the dam — known by many names, including the Brecksville Dam, State Route 82 Dam, Station Road Dam and Canal Diversion Dam — and the resulting impoundment from the Cuyahoga River.
“The Cuyahoga River has had a very exciting and eventful year,” said NEFCO Executive Director Joe Hadley, referencing the 50th anniversary of the 1969 fire on the river that sparked a national environmental movement.
The results from this GLRI [Great Lakes Restoration Initiative] grant will further enhance the water quality and flow of the river. NEFCO looks forward to working with our federal, state and local partners on this important project,” he said.
The project will open a segment of the river to critical fish passage and historic free-flowing conditions and address other environmental impairments in the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern, according to the EPA.
NEFCO is one of several partners on the project, including the nonprofit Friends of the Crooked River and the Ohio EPA.
The 8-foot-high dam is within Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It feeds water into the Ohio & Erie Canal that then drains north through CVNP and into Cleveland Metroparks’ Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, according to CVNP.
According to Friends of the Crooked River, the original dam at the site was the Pinery Feeder Dam, constructed in 1827 to divert water from the Cuyahoga River into the Ohio & Erie Canal.
The current concrete-and-steel dam was constructed in 1952 by American Steel and Wire just downstream of the original dam for industrial use, but it is no longer used for that purpose. Its removal has been studied for more than a decade.
Officials have said the dam interrupts the natural flow and negatively affects water quality of the river, and its removal will help return the river to a more natural, free-flowing state and make it safer for paddlers.
Elaine Marsh, co-founder of Friends of the Crooked River and watershed specialist with Summit Metro Parks, said work could start as soon as December but could be pushed to next spring. Once work begins, it’s expected to take “a matter of days,” Marsh said, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
The process will include breaching the dam, which will allow the water to return to a natural level, and then removing the dam. As part of the project, a pump station will also be installed after the dam is removed to divert river water into the Ohio& Erie Canal, Marsh said.
Marsh said all the work should be done by the fall of 2020.
Friends of the Crooked River is the fiscal agent on the project, which will also include a $900,000 contribution from the city of Akron, which is paying for part of the project in place of paying additional civil penalties associated with a 2009 consent decree.
The project’s total cost is estimated at somewhere around $1.3 million to $1.5 million, but a final total is still pending. Marsh said any leftover funds would be used for additional restoration work.
“I think that it is remarkable that we’ve made the progress that we’ve made with all the different players on the board and all the things that have to be coordinated,” Marsh said.
It’s a really great statement on how stakeholders can come together and work together to resolve even complicated situations, and we will have a wonderful outcome. Whether it is in December or in the spring, we will have a wonderful outcome,” she continued.
The Brecksville Dam is the latest in a series of dams to be removed from the river in an effort to improve water quality by letting the 100-mile river flow naturally. Dams in Kent, Munroe Falls and two in Cuyahoga Falls have already come down in recent years.
After the Brecksville Dam is gone, the last dam remaining on the Cuyahoga will be the 60-foot-tall Gorge Dam, built between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls in 1911 for hydroelectric power. It’s no longer functional and is slated for removal in the early 2020s.
That project, which is expected to reveal the buried natural waterfall for which Cuyahoga Falls is named, comes with a $70 million price tag.
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Read more about Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants:
Learn why Augusta, Georgia, is considering blocking a dam removal: