State and local Agencies Anxiously Await Federal Funding for Demolition of the Gorge Dam

Sep 23, 2016

The century old Gorge dam on the Cuyahoga River could be coming down in the next few years if federal regulators agree to fund the project.

Local officials are putting together what they believe is a strong case to tear down the dam.

The Gorge dam in Cuyahoga Falls is the largest dam on the Cuyahoga River and it’s one of the main factors impeding the river’s recovery according to the U.S. EPA.

But federal funding for its demolition is not guaranteed, according to the Ohio EPA’s Bill Zawiski.

“Our project is not approved," he says.

But his agency and local partners are working to convince the federal agency to back the plan.  

“It’s like when people apply to us for money, they want to give us the strongest project they can, and that’s exactly what we’re doing to U.S. EPA.  We’ve got the cost studies, we’ve got these sediment studies, we’re going to get historical work done -  we want to give them a good product and say, ‘hey, this is really worth funding."

Zawiski acknowledges, "It is totally up them if they choose to partner with us.”

Summit Metro Parks director Lisa King is planning a series of public meetings next year as a requirement of the request for U.S. EPA funds to demolish the Gorge Dam.

But King does not have a timeframe for when that funding might become available.

"We're waiting anxiously." - Lisa King, Summit Metro Parks

The preliminary draft application has been submitted to the U.S. EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office and she says the Metro Parks and Ohio EPA are awaiting input from the agency's review board.

"So it’s in process," she says, "but  we just don’t how long these things will take."  

The U.S. EPA could pay up to 65 percent of the $70 million price tag for removing the dam through the Great Lakes Legacy Act. The remaining funds would come from state and local sources.

Zawiski estimates that demolition could begin as soon as 2019 if federal funding comes through.