Removal of Cuyahoga Falls dams slated for early summer

by Phil Keren | cuyahoga falls news-press editor Published:

Cuyahoga Falls -- Two dams in the city are slated to be removed early next summer, according to Falls officials.

On Dec. 12, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a nationwide permit which will allow for the removal of the two low head dams, one that is behind the Sheraton Suites and the other that is behind the former Samira Restaurant.

The city of Cuyahoga Falls and its project team, RiverWorks, and the Ohio EPA are finalizing demolition plans, according to a news release from the city.

Valerie Wax Carr, the city's service director, noted officials are hoping to start the project in June 2013, but said that kick-off date could be delayed if the water level is high or if there are unusual weather conditions.

The RiverWorks team that is doing the project is made up of three companies: River Reach Construction, GPD Engineering, and Enviroscience, according to Carr.

The project will cost just under $1 million, said Carr, who added the money is coming from the state's Water Pollution Control Loan Fund, which is administered by the Ohio EPA.

Carr noted while the actual removal of each dam will take "probably only a couple days," the restoration process at each site "will take months."

She said that process could include putting in some type of barrier between the water and the Sheraton and the former Samira site, as well as doing some plantings.

"We do believe the water will be moving at a faster rate [after the dams come down]," said Carr. "So, they want to make sure that does not cause any harm to those structures."

Carr also admitted that the project team will not know exactly what types of restoration work needs to be done until the dams have been removed.

"The removal of the dams would help restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Cuyahoga River," said Cuyahoga Falls City Engineer Tony Demasi in a story that appeared in the Falls News-Press Aug. 5. "The Ohio EPA, encouraged by the success of the dam removal projects of Kent and Munroe Falls, is starting to see the benefits of those projects including better water quality, increased fish population and the return of some native animals."

The city had initially intended to have the dams removed during 2012 in time for the city's bicentennial celebration, but delays occurred due to a legal action filed by another company. In March, Beaver Excavating Co. filed a civil complaint in Summit County Common Pleas Court to prevent the city from awarding a $1 million contract to River Reach Construction to remove the dams.

While city officials felt their bid process had been "correct," and "legal," Mayor Don L. Robart said they agreed to repeat the qualification review process to avoid the possibility of a lengthy court battle. Demasi said Beaver Excavating did not participate in the second proposal submission process.

In mid-July, Demasi said River Reach was notified it was again the city's choice to undertake the project.

In mid-August, officials had a project kick-off meeting. Shortly after that, Carr said the city was on the verge of acquiring a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project, but the official they had been dealing with had moved on to another job. Carr said the official's replacement wanted to review all of the information again before signing off on the permit.

Two public outreach sessions have been scheduled to inform the public of the importance of the dam removal and what is in store for the Cuyahoga River in the near and long term future. These one-hour meetings will take place in the Sutliff Room at the Cuyahoga Falls Library, 2015 Third St., on Jan. 16, 2013 at 2 p.m., and on Feb. 20, 2013 at 7 p.m.

"Anyone would be welcome to come," said Carr.

She said each session will discuss the goals of the project, the funding source, what RiverWorks is planning to do and give attendees a sense of what the river will look like after the project is done.

She noted the city is eventually hoping to allow kayakers to use the river.

"We want this to be an educational experience … for the public," said Carr, who added officials are "really excited" about starting the project.

email: pkeren@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9421

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