The Brecksville Dam has had many names: the Station Rd. dam, the Rt. 82 dam and the Canal Diversion dam. The original dam and its rebuild have had a checkered history. On May 21, the dam’s history met it future as deconstruction began with a rat-tat-tat.
Friends of the Crooked River (FOCR) have advocated for the dam’s removal since our inception 30 years ago. Several studies by the Ohio EPA confirmed that the dam was the major impediment to aquatic life in the stretch of river from the Little Cuyahoga to the Navigation channel, a 36 mile stretch of the river. In addition, the dam’s hydraulic wave was the single most hazardous obstruction to paddlers in that same river section.
For the last decade or so, efforts to remove the dam have intensified. Not long after the turn of the century, the dam, its impacts, its historic value, and the benefits of its removal have been examined, studied and permitted every possible way.
Upstream, derelict dams have been removed or modified to restore a free-flowing Cuyahoga. Down they came: Kent dam in 2005, Munroe Falls dam in 2006, two dams in Cuyahoga Falls in 2013. The results have been remarkable. Healthy aquatic life was restored, the goal of the projects. In addition, communities where dams were removed have celebrated other benefits: the aesthetic beauty of a natural river, the increased public access and recreational opportunities and economic benefits. As communities embrace their renovated waterfronts, land and water trails have raced to meet each other culminating in the 2019 designation of the Cuyahoga River Water Trail as one 13 official water trails of the state. And, new traditions are emerging, like the Cuyahoga Falls Kayak Race, the Akron Waterways Renewed, Cuyahoga River Homecoming. Overall, the dam removal projects have been heralded by Northeast Ohio as a great boon to the quality of our life.
FOCR first became officially involved in this iconic project in 2006 when we received $120,000 in Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) funds from the Ohio EPA to manage needed studies for the process. Since then we have worked with the projects various partners, most notably Ohio EPA and CVNP. In 2009, we were named recipient of $900,000 SEP funds from the City of Akron in the consent decree regarding the city’s combined sewer overflow abatement implementation. We received the funds in 2017.
In 2018, after the required procurement process, Kokosing Industrial, Inc. was contracted by Friends of the Crooked River to deconstruct the dam and to install a River Water Pump Station to transfer water from the river to the historic canal. FOCR hired Dianne Sumego of dms water solutions co. as our Project Manager and Phil Rhodes of Rhode2Compliance to inspect deconstruction of the dam.
In 2019, through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Region 5 of the USEPA granted Northeast Ohio Four County Regional Planning and Development Organization (NEFCO) $800,000 to round out the financial picture.
In addition to the key operational partners of FOCR, Ohio EPA, CVNP, now NEFCO and USEPA, have joined mix. Many other landowners and permitting agencies are involved. Landowners include, CVNP, Cleveland Metroparks, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). Permitting agencies include the National Park Service, the State Historic Preservation Office, ODNR, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Ohio EPA. Funding programs are, SEP funds from the City of Akron and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Given this list, it is not overly surprising that progress moved at the pace it did.
So finally, the complicated and long-time-coming Canal Diversion Dam removal has reached its lengthy but inevitable conclusion. On May 21, with the positioning of the excavator jackhammer attachment on the caterpillar and a rat-tat-tat of its hydraulic drive, the business of deconstruction of the dam began. The crack heard ‘round the watershed.
With gratitude toward all partners for their diligence and patience, FOCR Board of Directors bows to the day in great celebration.
What’s next. The schedule for the following list will be dependent on the safety of water levels.
- The notch will be expanded to lower the water level.
- The original Pinery Dam currently drowned behind the 1950’s dam will be exposed for historic documentation.
- The remainder of the dam will be deconstructed.
- The river will find its new path.
- Final planning for the installation of the pump station will be completed.
- The pump will be ordered and upon completion will be installed (probably in 2021.)
Please do not attempt to go onto the construction site, (including the branch of towpath next to the river and the railroad tracks) or to paddle the river above or below the dam. For your safety and that of the construction crew, this is a restricted site for construction workers only.
This is a temporary situation for a long-term solution. Your patience will be rewarded.
Related Articles & Resources
- Brecksville Dam removal begins, thanks to forward-thinking, healthy partnerships
- A History of the Brecksville Dam