Dam alterations to improve water quality, wildlife habitats

KENT, Ohio (AP) - Alterations to two dams along the Cuyahoga River are expected to create a more natural, free-flowing river with attractive habitats for fish and aquatic insects.
The dam projects in Kent and Munroe Falls, about 30 miles southeast of Cleveland, will cost more than $7.5 million in federal, state and local funds.
The changes will eliminate excessive nutrients in the river and low levels of dissolved oxygen, which kill fish and insects. The stagnant, algae-filled backwaters behind the dams will shrink.
"The change in dissolved oxygen will be virtually instantaneous, and fish and aquatic insect species will then return to the river," said water expert Dr. Robert Heath of Kent State University.
The two projects mark the first time that Ohio has ordered dams altered to improve water quality, said Steve Tuckerman of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Eliminating old dams is a growing trend in the United States.
The country has some 75,000 dams, and, since 1999, 100 obsolete ones have been removed from the nation's waterways.
Tuckerman said the changes are expected to return desirable fish species like smallmouth bass, northern pike, suckers and darters, along with insects like mayflies and caddisflies.
The Kent project calls for running the river to the east, around the 14-foot historic dam. The water that previously had backed up will be routed through a channel where an old canal lock formerly stood.
The 144-foot-long Munroe Falls dam will be lowered from 11½ feet to 5½ feet, said James Demboski, director of Summit County's Environmental Services Department.
Kent must finalize an agreement with the Ohio EPA, the U.S. EPA, the Ohio Historical Society and the Corps of Engineers before getting final permits for the project.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)