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Design work for Gorge Dam removal may start this year

by Phil Keren | editor and Steve wiandt | Reporter Published: March 27, 2016 12:00 AM

While work may begin this year on the design phase for the removal of the Gorge Dam, other steps must be taken for the $70 million-plus project to move forward, according to an Ohio EPA official.

"There are several pieces that need to be lined up for the whole puzzle to be complete," said Lindey Amer, public information officer for the Ohio EPA's Northeast District Office.

"The federal EPA indicated Ohio could begin working on the design phase for the removal of the Gorge Dam, but before the project could move forward, [the project is] going to require 35 percent local matching funds" Amer said, relaying a message that Ohio EPA Environmental Scientist Bill Zawiski shared with the Summit County Metro Parks Board of Commissioners on March 8.

Amer added the Ohio EPA must apply to the U.S. EPA for the remaining 65 percent of the removal cost. On its application that it would submit to the U.S. EPA, Amer said the state EPA would have to show it has secured the local matching funds.

However, the source of those local funds is "one of the things that needs to be established," said Amer, who added that Ohio EPA officials are currently meeting with local partners.

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"It just depends on who's able to help out and what they're able to provide," she said. "/ Anyone, public or private, could be a potential partner. Match can be in the form of cash or work in kind."

Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters said city officials recently met with Ohio EPA officials.

"They are not asking for any money, but we offered to help with in-kind contributions as the need arises," said Walters. "An example would be to host the ongoing public meetings at [the Natatorium] for free. We might also provide for another 'dam cam' when the time comes."

She said the Ohio EPA would like to start the dam removal design this year and added the final design plan for removal would be in the application to the U.S. EPA.

"The project timeframe has not been solidified," added Amer.

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Amer said a final design plan for the removal would also have to be included in the application to the U.S. EPA.

She explained that Zawiski is "projecting" that the removal of the dam "could maybe occur in 2019 if everything falls in place."

Located in the Gorge Metro Park between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, the Gorge Dam is 57 feet high and 420 feet long, according to Ohio EPA officials. From its completion in 1912 to 1958, the Gorge Dam powered a hydroelectric plant.

The dam removal project would cost upwards of $70 million, according to Kevin Kratt, director of water resources at Tetra Tech. Kratt, an environmental consultant hired by the Ohio EPA, spoke at a public forum on the issue in September 2015. The dam has to come down for the water quality of the river to improve, especially for the wildlife, according to Kratt.

"We at the Ohio EPA have a mandate to improve water quality," said Zawiski at the forum in September 2015.

Based on its age alone, the dam has to go, Kratt said.

"It's over 100 years old," he said. "We can't just let it sit there until it fails."

Kratt said his analysis looked at methods and costs of two actions: the removal and disposal of the sediment that has collected in the dam pool behind the dam and the removal and disposal of the dam. Removing the sediment is important, Kratt said, because of contaminants.

There are two methods of removing the sediment, mechanical dredging and hydraulic dredging. With mechanical dredging, sediment is scooped out and removed by barge, dried and then hauled away for disposal.

Hydraulic dredging is done with equipment similar to a large vacuum cleaner. Sediment is sucked up with the water, then bagged in what looks like "big socks," Kratt said. When the water seeps out of the bags, the sediment is hauled away.

Kratt said the sediment can be removed in one of three ways:

/ dredged hydraulically and hauled to the Chuckery Area of Cascade Valley South Metro Park at an estimated cost of $57.4 million;

/ dredged hydraulically and hauled to the former Hardy Road Landfill, at an estimated cost of $77.1 million; and

/ dredged mechanically, dried in a nearby parking lot and hauled away for an estimated $63.5 million. This would yield about 90,000 truckloads of dried sediment, Kratt said.

Following the removal of sediment, there are two ways the dam can be removed:

/ in-place dam removal by mechanical demolition, truck and haul waste directly to off-site concrete crushing operation for recycling and reuse for $12.6 million;

/or in-place dam removal by mechanical demolition, truck and haul waste directly to offsite landfill for permanent disposal for $13.3 million.

Amer said a specific removal method has not been decided on.

"The Cuyahoga River has been under the microscope since it caught fire nearly 50 years ago," said Walters in an email to the Falls News-Press on March 10. "There have been phenomenal advancements made in water quality in that time, but unfortunately, the Edison dam remains as the largest hindrance to the natural flow of the river. The experts agree that removal of the dam will return the river to the state that "mother nature" intended. The original 'Cuyahoga Falls' depicted on our city seal will finally be visible once the dam and sediment are removed."

Email: pkeren@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9421


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