CUYAHOGA FALLS: After five weeks of delays because of high water and unsafe conditions, work got underway Tuesday on removing the Sheraton Mill Dam on the Cuyahoga River.
Work began about 10 a.m. with workers on a floating barge with a track hoe equipped with a hammer attachment.
The dam near Broad Boulevard is 9.8 feet high and 50 feet wide.
The workers attacked the left side of the dam, closest to Route 8. They carved out two holes to enable water to drain through the dam without going over the top, said spokesman Joel Bingham of RiverWorks, the consortium that is removing the dam for the city of Cuyahoga Falls.
“They just kept chipping away,” he said of the hammering from the barge. “It’s coming apart pretty good.”
“Things have gone smooth and it’s going well,” he said. “We’re making progress. ...We want to continue as fast as possible.”
Seismic monitors detected no troublesome vibrations from the hammering. This led to a last-minute change in plans: Work got underway on removing sections of stone extending across the dam.
The holes being poked in the dam will enable the water in the pool behind the dam to drop, he said. Bigger openings in the dam will speed up the pool dropping, he said.
That will enable the RiverWorks team to assess how to build a retaining wall near an old powerhouse that will remain on the Sheraton Suites side of the river.
It is possible that the barge could be removed late today, he said.
Rubble that falls into the pool below the dam will be retrieved later, Bingham said.
The work on Tuesday drew a steady crowd that stood on the observation decks at Broad Boulevard.
“It’s really exciting,” said Ronald Mettler, 45, of Cuyahoga Falls.
Added Scott Banks, 63, of Cuyahoga Falls: “This will help the river and hopefully it won’t smell any more.”
Bingham said there is a 60 percent chance of rain on Thursday and that could temporarily halt the dam removal work.
When the Sheraton Mill Dam is removed, work will begin on taking out a second dam: the LaFever Powerhouse Dam.
That dam, north of Portage Trail and behind the old Samira restaurant, is 11.1 feet high and about 100 feet wide.
Removal of the dams will restore the river’s health, authorities say. What will emerge is a narrower and healthier stream with desirable fish and aquatic insects.
Price tag for the removal is $1 million. The money for the dam removals came to Cuyahoga Falls from the Ohio EPA through the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in the Cleveland area.
The city is posting dam-removal updates at www.cityofcf.com where people can also view the city’s Dam Cam.
Dams were removed in Kent in 2004 and lowered in Munroe Falls in 2005-2006 to also boost water quality along the Cuyahoga River.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.