Posted on Tue, Oct. 26, 2004

Changes improve Cuyahoga River Channel that reroutes water around Kent dam enhances habitat, fish scores

By Bob Downing

Beacon Journal staff writer

KENT - Changes made to a dam on the Cuyahoga are improving the river's water quality.

The river was rerouted last February through a new 40-foot-wide channel that goes around the still-standing Kent dam. That's eliminated a stagnant pool behind the dam. ``Modifications to the Kent dam are already paying off,'' said Steve Tuckerman, a water expert for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Dams block fish migration and cause water to stagnate, leaving low oxygen levels in pools behind dams. The condition kills fish and aquatic insects. Since the Cuyahoga River was rerouted around the dam just south of West Main Street -- a $3.8 million project that is nearly complete -- scores on the stream's habitat quality and the fish community have both climbed, said Bill Zawiski, a spokesman for the EPA.

``It's a wonderful thing,'' Zawiski said. ``It's nice that it happened so quickly. The recovery falls within our expectations, so it's not a shock.'' The new channel has adequate flows for fish to make their way upstream around the dam, he said. The habitat on the Cuyahoga River in Kent got a score of 51 prior to rerouting the flow around the dam. The minimal acceptable score is 60 points on an EPA scale. The river now gets a habitat score of 79 ½, marking a more attractive habitat for fish and aquatic insects, Zawiski said. In 2000, the Kent fish community scored a 28, with a goal of 40 for the numbers and species of fish found in the river. In tests on Oct. 6, Kent's fish score had climbed to 44, Zawiski said. Those scores mean that the Cuyahoga River in Kent now meets EPA standards as a warm-water habitat.

The Kent work and lowering of a dam in Munroe Falls were key elements of an Ohio EPA plan to improve the Cuyahoga's water quality. In Munroe Falls, plans call for lowering the 144-foot-long dam from 11 ½ feet to 5 ½ feet to shrink the pool behind the structure. The $1.9 million project, expected to take 12 to 18 months, has been delayed as Summit County and Munroe Falls continue to discuss permits and bonding questions. The plan includes a fish ladder by which fish would be able to swim around the dam and continue upstream. Zawiski said it is unlikely that water quality improvement from the Munroe Falls work will match Kent's success, because the dam is being lowered, not removed.

Ohio is under a federal mandate to identify 880 waterways that are unsafe for swimming and fishing and to bring them into compliance. Exploratory talks have been held about removing the 14-foot-high dam on the Cuyahoga River between Brecksville and Sagamore Hills Township and the 57-foot dam between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls.


Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or

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