Contractors began the process of removing the Brecksville Dam from the Cuyahoga River on May 21.
Removing the dam will allow the river to flow freely through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for the first time in over 190 years, improving natural conditions and recreational access. Kokosing Industrial is the contractor performing the work.
The National Park Service has collaborated for over a decade with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, United States Army Corps of Engineers, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Friends of the Crooked River to prepare for the project.
The section of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail near the river will be closed for the duration of the project (through September). However, a parallel section of trail will remain available, so trail use should not be interrupted.
Trail users should be prepared to stop if contractors need to cross the open section of trail with heavy equipment.
The river above and below the dam within the construction area is closed to paddlers and anglers. Paddlers wishing to portage around the dam must use the Towpath Trail on the east side of the river. The railroad tracks are closed to all pedestrians north of the railroad boarding station.
Due to the inability to provide enough space for social distancing, the NPS will not establish a public viewing area for this project. It will provide updates on social media and at nps.gov/cuva/learn/dam-removal.htm.
The current concrete dam, built in 1951 to provide water to the American Steel and Wire Company, stands eight feet tall and 163 feet across. It is referred to as the Brecksville Dam and/or the Canal Diversion Dam.
The construction of the modern dam submerged the remnants of the wooden Pinery Dam, built in 1827 to divert water from the Cuyahoga River into the newly constructed Ohio & Erie Canal.
Although no longer needed to cool the steel mills downstream, the Brecksville Dam still feeds the watered section of the Ohio & Erie Canal, part of which is designated a National Historic Landmark. Dams, however, impair fish habitat, alter streamflow and water temperatures and create increased sedimentation of rivers and streams, significantly decreasing water quality.
Contractors created an opening in the dam to allow water and sediment to flow and lower the water behind the dam. With lower water levels, cultural resources will be documented before the complete removal of the Brecksville and Pinery dams. The demolition phase of the project is expected to be complete by late June, depending on weather conditions. The second phase of the project will involve the installation of a pump near the east wall of the dam to continue the function of providing a controlled water flow to the canal from the river.
Feature image photo caption: Contractors begin the process of removing the Brecksville Dam from the Cuyahoga River.