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"Free the Falls" Stakeholders Look for Funds to Destroy Gorge Dam

Either FirstEnergy or Summit Metro Parks own the dam.  No one seems to want to claim it. (urycki)

President Trump is proposing to eliminate the Great Lake Restoration Initiative and slash the U-S EPA by 31%.  But a group of Ohio stakeholders called “Free the Falls” are still optimistic they can tear down the largest dam on the Cuyahoga River.  

Dredging 800 thousand tons of sediment and then tearing down a 400 foot long solid concrete dam may be the easy part.   Navigating the murky waters of local, state and federal funding is the treacherous part.

Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters told a town hall meeting last night about the economic benefits from tourism if the big Gorge Dam is eliminated.

“If the dam would come down that would open up roughly 2 and ½ miles of the challenging whitewater and there’s nothing that replicates that east of the Mississippi."

Linda Whitman of Summit Metro Parks shows an historic photo of the big falls that is now hidden underwater. (urycki/ideastream)

Finding funding is a complicated affair for the $70 million dollar project.  

The cities of Cuyahoga Falls, Akron,  and the Ohio EPA have applied for a federal grant through the Great Lakes Legacy Act. 

Elaine Marsh of the Summit County MetroParks believes it’s safe from federal budget cuts.  

“There is money set aside for removing contaminated sediment   And that’s what we are looking for the funding, to get rid of that contaminated sediment  And that’s a very specific pot of money.  It’s not for anything else and we think it might as well be spent here.”  

Bill Zawiski of the Ohio EPA shows some of the "Areas of Concern" around the Great Lakes.  He  didn't want to predict federal budget outcomes. (urycki/ideastream)

The latest plan is going to the Great Lakes Legacy Act for funding that Bill Zawiski of the Ohio EPA says is aimed at cleaning up areas designated as “Areas of Concern” or AOC’s.  The Cuyahoga is one of them..

“You’re on this list of 43 AOC’s.  Your entire job is to not be on that list anymore. “

One thing the players are confident in is that Great Lakes politicians from both parties will keep clean water funding intact.