Cuyahoga Dam Feature

– [Narrator] The biggest whitewater rapids in the Cuyahoga Falls
Race are right downtown in the shadow of the
Sheraton Suites Hotel. – The farthest person we’ve had
travel by car is from Maine, maybe even Alabama. We did have a gentleman fly
in Washington state as well. (rapids roaring) (scream) – [Narrator] Most of the
old dams on the Cuyahoga were built to run mills. A couple generated electricity but they haven’t been
actually working for decades. The idea of removing dams
surfaced back in the mid-90s but it was not about recreation. The Ohio EPA was studying
the middle Cuyahoga between Kent and Cuyahoga Falls. They were trying to find out, after the big sources of
pollution were cleaned up, why was the river not healthier. – It was not meeting the
standards for aquatic life and most of the discharges
in the area were pretty good. So they were wondering
what was causing that. And the outcome of that study said that the major cause for
aquatic life non-attainment, why the fish weren’t healthy, was dams. – And obviously stagnant
water is never good. The sediment will drop out which hurts the wildlife
and all the breeding grounds but also the water has to
flow as nature intended to get oxygenated so
that was not happening. – The Kent Dam was the first dam in the Eastern United States that came out for water quality reasons. And it was the first
dam in the state of Ohio that came out for other
than safety reasons. So it was a new thing. Nobody knew what it was gonna look like. A lot of people liked
the old historic dam. There was a debate that
lasted seven years. – We soon found out that Kent, being the unique town that it is, has a very strong environmental presence. But we also had a very
strong historical presence. And a lot of people that had grown up in Kent their entire lives, they spent a lot of time
around the Kent Dam as kids and they didn’t want to see
anything change down here. So we learned very early on that there was gonna be
two opposing forces here, the historians versus
the environmentalists. – [Narrator] The battle went on until a compromise was reached, leave some of the dam as a water park and open up a side channel
to let the river run free. – Yeah before this project, the water level would have
been about right here, about 14 foot above the river itself and the water would be flowing over here. So when the dam pool was
drained and a park was added, we got a lot more area
for people to come down and visit and enjoy the area. The waterfall feature
that was so important to the citizens of Kent had to be modified in order to keep some type of a waterfall. So what was done was there’s
actually a pump house built over there that has
two 6,500 GPM pumps in it. – [Narrator] With the dam pool gone and the river running free again, the water quality changed. – Immediate difference. It was pretty remarkable. We had our staff out there. Within six months to a year
after the dam was removed, we did our investigation into the biology of the former dam pool and showed that it was meeting
our warm water criteria. Again, we had northern
pike and smallmouth bass had come back to that dam pool that was dominated by catfish and carp. – Shortly after, downstream
at about mile 50, on the 100-mile Cuyahoga, the Munroe Falls Dam was torn down with similar water improvements. – Munroe Falls took a little longer. It’s a different stretch of water. But we most recently did our sampling in the Munroe Falls area and it is also meeting our
water quality objectives. – [Narrator] In 2013, the two dams within sight of each other
in downtown Cuyahoga Falls, came under the hammer. One was the powerhouse dam at the site of today’s Burntwood Tavern. The second was near the Sheraton Hotel, where the restaurant bows on the river, juts out over the water
to embrace the view. New bars and restaurants and breweries are being built on the river to take advantage of that view. – There was a lot of public
concern about what would happen, what it would look like, what it would do to the aesthetics, what it would do to the historic values. There were a lot of people
who were concerned about this especially people who
lived near the river, but as the dams came down, along the river, we saw that those fears
did not come to fruition. That instead of it impacting
negatively the aesthetics and negatively their property, it was a positive asset. – Prior to the dams coming down, we never really had a travel
and tourism piece here. In fact, we don’t have a
travel and tourism director. I’ll be that person. – You know, it just keeps
getting cleaner and cleaner. In the summertime, when
we run through here, you can see down six feet into some of these areas very clearly. You can see all the way
down to the river bottom. You can see fish swimming
around and it’s great. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that there’s so many new
buildings being put up here to embrace the river. – [Narrator] The next dam expected to go is the Canal Diversion
Dam or Brecksville Dam, in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was originally built in 1827, to provide water for the Ohio Canal but now, all it does is back
up two miles of stagnant water. It’s scheduled to come down this fall. – What that’s going to get us is, the dam pool above there does not meet our warm water criteria. And I would point out
that below the dam pool, we are meeting exceptional
warm water habitat. Our criteria for the Cuyahoga
River below that dam pool, that’s the gold standard, the A plus. That puts it on par with the Grand River and the Chagrin River. So we have no reason to expect that we’re not gonna have similar water quality improvements
when we remove that dam. – There is hope that a trout species would actually be able to go upstream into either Yellow Creek
or Furnace Run and spawn. There is a possibility that the Cuyahoga could become a trout stream. – It’s gonna allow fish passage. Also those low-head dams,
they’re a safety hazard. – The Brecksville Dam is a site where people have actually died. – The same reason that
that dam is the killer dam is the same reason why these waterfalls are
dangerous at high water. And they can kill you. What happens is dams create them naturally but when the river rises, it
creates these river hydraulics that can continue to pull you under water but don’t allow you to flush downriver. So you end up being recirculated to the point of exhaustion and drowning. And then the river will
continue to hold you there until it either lowers or just time allows debris
or people to flush out. – [Narrator] With the dam out of the way, canoers will be able to paddle a 40-mile stretch to Lake Erie, following the path Native
Americans took centuries ago. When the Brecksville Dam is gone, all eyes will be on the
biggest dam on the river, the Gorge Dam also
known as the Edison Dam, connecting Akron and Cuyahoga Falls. – Federal EPA is the big
funder of that dam removal. We look like it could be on
pace to about 2022 or 2023, to be totally gone. – We knew that even though this dam is 60 feet high and 420 feet wide that it was a big dam, but we also knew the most expense was gonna be in removing the sediment. – We have to remove the
sediment from behind the dam. That’s in the neighborhood of 850,000 cubic yards of sediment. That’s a huge volume of sediment. And then we obviously have
to remove the structure. – We came up with a feasibility account of what it would take
to take out this dam. And that report said it would cost in the neighborhood of $70 million to remove the dam and the
contaminated sediment. – The dam was placed over the Great Falls. There’s, depending on which
elevations you look at, there’s like half of the Great Falls might still be buried by the dam. And what’s it gonna look like that’s the box of chocolates, who knows? – The technical term is the Big Falls but our city was named after that and it hasn’t been seen in over 100 years. And when we took the two small dams down, the kayakers told me
that’s about a half-mile of challenging whitewater. If the Edison Dam comes down,
it’s two-and-a-half miles. So we will be building hotels
and restaurants at that point. – [Narrator] It seems with clean water, things just seem to grow better. (rapids roaring)

1 thought on “Cuyahoga Dam Feature

  1. You can't take a boat in these areas anymore, they are too shallow after they took out the dams. It's not all good as these people would have you believe.

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