Questions answered at meeting on removal of Cuyahoga Falls dams

by steve wiandt | reporter Published:

Cuyahoga Falls -- When will the city's two dams be demolished? How will their removal affect the Cuyahoga River? What will be done with the demolition debris?

These and other questions (including what historic artifact lies deep below the river's surface) were answered at the city's first of two public informational meetings on the dam removal and restoration project Jan. 16.

With permission granted in December by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the city is going to tear down two low head dams in the city, one behind Samira's restaurant (formerly LeFever's) and the other behind the Sheraton Suites hotel.

Mayor Don L. Robart said when the dams are removed, "you are going to see the original falls the city was named after … [and] fish we never saw before."

The river will be "healthier and more vibrant," he said.

The Cuyahoga will be rapid enough to support white water rafting and kayaking, Robart said, giving the city's economic development a shot in the arm.

Crews will mobilize from June 10-14, said Joel Bingham, a restoration biologist with EnviroScience and the RiverWorks team. Work will be done on the Sheraton dam June 17-30 and then on the LeFever dam July 1-19.

Progress will be influenced by weather and flow influence, Bingham said.

"We are very excited to get started," he commented. "We are ready and geared up."

Robart cautioned visible improvements will not be instantaneous. When the Munroe Falls Dam was removed, it was two years before the river's appearance improved, he said.

"It's kind of like getting a haircut you don't like at first," he said.

Robart said the EPA approached the city five years ago with a proposal to remove the dams.

Built during the country's industrial age a century ago, dams today are no more than "impairments" and "drowning machines," said Bill Zawiski, a biologist for the Ohio EPA. "Healthy streams are free-flowing, not impaired," Zawiski said. "Dams impair streams."

Zawiski said he is federally mandated by the Clean Water Act to improve water quality.

The mayor said he wasn't sure at first how the Sheraton and LeFever's, as well as residents, would view it.

"I did not oppose EPA, but asked how it would be funded," Robart said. "I told them the city was not interested in putting any money into it."

For more on this story, see the Jan. 20 edition of the Cuyahoga Falls News-Press.

Email: swiandt@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9420

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