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EPA Announces Grants To Clean Great Lakes, Remove Akron's Gorge Dam

Lisa King with Summit County Metroparks, U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and EPA Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede visited the Gorge Dam Monday as part of the grant announcement. [City of Akron]
Left to right: Lisa King of Summit Metro Parks, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler concluded his tour of Northern Ohio Tuesday with visits to Akron and Cleveland and announcing more than $2 million in federal grants.

Akron will receive more than $1 million for the Gorge Dam removal project as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“Removal of this dam will restore free-flowing conditions over one and a half miles of waterway,” Wheeler said Tuesday morning in Akron. “Removing the dam is the first in a long line of steps that will transform the Cuyahoga from the polluted river it was 50 years ago into the major environmental resource that it’s already becoming.”

The removal of the dam will restore the flow of the Cuyahoga River and the dam pool area, said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, which has been a source of water quality impairments.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, in seeing that this is getting done,” said Mayor Dan Horrigan. “This grant will go a long way to giving us a feasibility of how we eventually take down the dam in the ensuing 18 months or couple years.”

The city expects to select a design plan by September, Horrigan said. Sediment removal is slated to begin next year, he said, with removal of the dam complete by 2022.

“I grew up in the area, I’ve seen the dam since I was very small,” Horrigan said. “Forty-five years ago, we were literally dumping raw sewage into the river. Now, we’ll be able to celebrate taking down the dam and improving our waterways.”

Wheeler also toured parts of Cleveland Tuesday, visiting Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District facilities. During a press conference in Lakewood, he announced more than $1.1 million in grants for Great Lakes trash removal.

“Trash Free Waters has the chance of becoming one of the most successful new programs launched by EPA in recent years, given how quickly it’s travelled from idea to execution,” Wheeler said in a press release.

Recipients include Alliance for the Great Lakes in Chicago; the Belle Isle Conservancy in Detroit; the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper in Buffalo, N.Y.; the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps in Milwaukee; and the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council in Holland, Mich.

The funding is part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s Trash Free Waters grants. The initiative, launched last year in Cleveland, aims to remove trash and litter from marine and freshwater environments.

Wheeler announced additional grants during a Monday press conference in Toledo.