Bob Downing

The National Park Service and two Ohio state agencies are taking a different and faster approach in determining whether to modify or remove a dam on the Cuyahoga River.

They have been looking for 6½ years at modifying or removing the Canal Diversion Dam between Sagamore Hills Township and Brecksville in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The structure near state Route 82 is also known as the Brecksville Dam or the Station Road Dam.

Now the park service has concluded that the current plan won’t harm the park and won’t create any major issues.

As a result, a federal Environmental Impact Statement — a detailed, costly, time-consuming and manpower-heavy assessment — is not needed and has been terminated.

Instead the agencies including the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will complete what’s called an Environmental Assessment that will cover everything that is needed and could be released in early spring.

That announcement came Wednesday in a listing in the Federal Register.

That is “very good news,” said Cuyahoga River activist Gary Whidden of Cuyahoga Falls.

Expediting the review means removing the dam and opening the river up to paddlers will happen more quickly and “that’s exciting news,” he said.

There will be public meetings in the spring. The plan will be finalized in the summer-fall. Construction could begin in 2017, said spokeswoman Linda Oros of the Ohio EPA.

The state-owned Brecksville Dam is 183 feet long and nearly 8 feet high. It funnels water into the nearby Ohio & Erie Canal.

The goal is to remove the dam to boost water quality on the Cuyahoga River and to provide a way to funnel water from the river into the historic canal in the northern part of the 33,000-acre federal park.

Pump and no-pump options were being explored. Officials said the canal needs nearly 13 million gallons of water per day in order to remain watered.

The first proposal to remove the dam came in 2002 and the current federal-state review began in 2009. It involves five agencies, including the park service, Ohio EPA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Corps of Engineers and Cleveland Metroparks.

The city of Akron is providing $900,000 for the demolition of the dam under a penalty imposed by the federal government for the city’s overflowing sewers.

The Ohio EPA says the dam has an adverse impact on fish and aquatic insects.

Dams in Kent, Munroe Falls and two in Cuyahoga Falls have already been removed or modified in recent years to improve Cuyahoga River water quality. There is also a plan taking shape to remove the 57-foot-high Gorge Dam between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls in the Gorge Metro Park. That could cost $70 million.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.