Removal Of Brecksville Dam Begins At Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The Brecksville Dam
A small portion of the dam is being removed first to allow water and sediment to slowly level out. [Mark Urycki / ideastream]
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Work to remove the Brecksville Dam in Cuyahoga Valley National Park began Thursday, and could take more than a year to complete.

The original wooden Brecksville Dam was first built in the 1800s to divert water to the Ohio and Erie Canal. It was updated in the 1950s with concrete, and used to cool steel for American Steel and Water.

It isn’t needed for steel anymore, said CVNP Public Information Officer Pamela Barnes, but river water still needs to be diverted to the canal. A pump will be constructed to fulfill that need after the dam has been fully removed, she said.

“By removing this dam, it will make it possible for paddlers to paddle right through that area, out of the national park and all the way into Cleveland,” Barnes said.

The Brecksville Dam is a low-head dam, Barnes said, which presents safety risks for anyone interested in water recreation.

“We call those drowning machines,” Barnes said. “If you were to go over that dam, it creates such a hydraulic that you’d be pretty much guaranteed to drown.”

Initially, just a small portion of the dam is being removed to allow the water and sediment to level out slowly, rather than all at once. The timeline for the dam’s complete removal is still being determined, Barnes said, but could last into 2021.

Removing the structure will make the river safer and also allow for a healthier flow of water, sediment and wildlife, Barnes said.

"It's an impediment to the free-flowing river, it's an impediment for the fish populations, it causes the backup of the water, sediments settle out as they normally wouldn't," she said.

The original wooden dam hidden within the concrete hasn’t be visible for decades, Barnes said. It will be photographed and documented before it is removed.

The project, which also includes restoration of the river habitat, is the result of efforts from multiple organizations, Barnes said, including the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, National Parks Service and Friends of the Crooked River.

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