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Big hammer drops on a Cuyahoga Falls dam
Another dam on the Cuyahoga River is down, more to go.

Mark Urycki
The "powerhouse dam" near the Sheraton Suites Hotel was cut and hammered into pieces this week.
Courtesy of MARK URYCKI
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In The Region:
In Cuyahoga Falls, construction crews have brought in the big hammer – and this week one of the dams on the Cuyahoga River has been all but obliterated.

Next week, the diesel-powered excavator will crawl upriver a quarter mile and tear down another dam. Officials hoped to demolish the two dams last year but heavy rains delayed work until last week.
LISTEN: The hammer comes down

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"They got the big hammer out now.” 

Bill Zawiski of the Ohio EPA is watching a large yellow excavator with a hammer point punch holes into one of the two dams in downtown Cuyahoga Falls.

The first cutting began last Wednesday on the 1914 powerhouse dam attached to the Sheraton Suites Hotel. This is a $1 million project to remove two dams in hopes of restoring water quality and wildlife habitat on the Cuyahoga River, and city Service Director Valerie Wax Carr said things improved as soon as the water level dropped.

 “Almost everyone notices how much better the river smells already.”


After the demolition, the river’s velocity and water level will change as far back upriver as some three miles. The river is an important part of downtown Cuyahoga Falls and after 10 years of talks, Carr said the city finally agreed to embrace dam removal.

“We were supportive of it, but we told the EPA we’re not doing it unless we get someone else to pay for it.”

And the EPA is.  The money comes from a revolving loan fund, which uses investment interest to provide about $15 million a year available for such projects in Ohio. That’s how they were able to remove dams upriver in Munroe Falls and Kent. The EPA’s Zawiski says both fish and insects have rebounded after those projects and the same will happen here.

“The fish communities will go from carp to small-mouth bass. You’ll see folks able to wade into the stream. A lot more fly fisherman and then northern pike and small-mouth bass will be the dominant fish. “

A delicate operation
In fact, in their plans are two dams downstream – the so-called Ohio Edison dam and the Canal Diversion dam in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park under Route 82.  

Despite the power of the large jack-hammer, it’s a delicate operation taking down the two downtown dams. 

Take a look at the Cuyahoga Fall dam cam:

A worker uses diamond-bladed saws to separate the dam from the old powerhouse. Other crew members watch a seismograph to make sure vibrations don’t harm the attached Sheraton Suites Hotel. The man who built the hotel  and is a co-owner is Tom Dillon. He placed the hotel restaurant out over the river, years before most people embraced the waterway. He actually liked the dam but is hoping for the best.

“They say it’ll be the best water for kayaking within 250 miles. So that’ll be interesting to see and maybe more people will come to the region just to kayak.”  That might lead to fewer jokes by Garrison Keillor about Cuyahoga Falls. 

City officials are working with kayakers and other river groups to plan new access points to the river and the extension of their current boardwalk. And as the water level drops, some remnants of the city’s industrial past are revealed.

Holes in the bedrock show where old wooden mills and water wheels were attached. One old water wheel, believed to be from the 19th Century has been spotted on sonar but has not yet been recovered.  200 years ago the city had as many as 5 dams downtown with numerous mills.  These two dams were built shortly after the devastating flood of 1913. 

The old powerhouse, which the Sheraton uses as a patio will be saved. It still has large gates and generators inside.  Crews will pile concrete debris in front of it and add top soil to protect it from river flooding.

Listener Comments:

if you're referring to the pretenders song, it's A-O way to go ohio..

Posted by: swimmerbob (san diego) on June 28, 2015 9:06AM
Hey, ho! Way to go Ohio!

Posted by: Kevin (Wisconsin) on August 12, 2013 9:08AM
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