Old Conservation Articles

Plain Dealer Article
By Michael Scott
Kayaking on the Cuyahoga River - Video Link
Featuring Mike Larkin and David Hill

Burning River Update
By Dave Hill

Jon Janowski - Sheraton Section Rookie Drop @ 400 cfs
Video of Kayaking the Sheraton drops

Things have really heated up on the Cuyahoga and 2008 had its good and bad points. Where to start? Well first off; this watershed has some real paddling opportunities that should not be missed.

Would You Drink the Water?

The questions about water quality are valid concerns but what river doesnít have its issues? There are many stories about paddlers getting sick on runs in rural areas and remote runs alike. Direct contact and minor water ingestion is a part of our sport and everyone should be concerned about the water we paddle. Remember to do your part to reduce impact to this resource when you are on or off the water!

Rack 40/31 Detention Basin - just upstream of Cuyahoga and Little Cuyahoga confluence
Now what about the Cuyahoga? Well it no longer burns. A November 2008 presentation by Ohio EPA (Steve Tuckerman) during a Friends of the Crooked River meeting indicated that water quality continues to dramatically improve throughout the watershed. The dam removal projects in Kent and Monroe Falls have achieved their goals of improving aquatic biodiversity as outlined in EPAís 2007 study.

"This survey affirmed that the portion of the Cuyahoga River in and near Kent is in FULL attainment of the aquatic life use biocriteria. The reach in the former Munroe Falls dam pool improved slightly from pre dam removal conditions and is in PARTIAL attainment. This Munroe Falls reach was in NON attainment of the aquatic life use biocriteria prior to the dam removal. Habitat scores throughout the study area were more than adequate to support warm water habitat fish communities. There were no exceedances or violations of chemical/physical water quality. Total phosphorus concentrations in the river exceed the statewide TMDL nutrient target concentration of 0.17 mg/l. The aquatic life attainment status in the river immediately downstream from the both the Kent and Munroe Falls dams did not change from premodification conditions which indicate that the dam projects did not have a significant adverse effect on downstream reaches. Verified computer model predictions indicate that, with the exception of total phosphorus, existing effluent permit concentrations at existing and requested expanded flows will meet current water quality chemical/physical standards or targets."

I donít currently have a summary report for the lower river reaches, however EPA indicated that water quality continues to show improvement but there are those 3 other dams that need addressed. Letís discuss the dams later. The water quality in the Gorge section below the Ohio Edison dam shows remarkable improvements and I believe it is in FULL attainment of the aquatic life use biocriteria. Both the types and diversity of aquatic species are indicative of a river on the mend. Comments from the fishermen we see while paddling support the EPA findings, this section is hot for small mouth and I have seen steelhead trying to scale the falls below the dam. The City of Akron has completed the Rack 40/31 Detention Basin which is a 9.5 million gallon storage tank designed to minimize combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into the Cuyahoga River.

While this basin is downstream of the Gorge section it does reduce impacts to the flatter sections as the river turns back north. Not saying that the CSOs in the Gorge section donít run (there is physical evidence), but I have not seen any of them discharging during my 23 runs in 2008. The biggest impact I see are storm water remnants in the form of drink bottles, Styrofoam and other debris from rain events. I removed 7 trash bags last April (Earth Day) from the dam to Butterfly just on river right! So if you want to help in 2009 contact me.

Brandon Hendron - Kent Dam By-Pass Channel on RiverDay 2007 @ 1300 cfs(?)

Should You Paddle the Water?

DUH! Of course you should, unless you donít mind driving to other states or believe that myth about no whitewater in Ohio! Currently we have some very good options for all levels of paddler experience. The extreme upper reaches (above Lake Rockwell) provide Class I float opportunities in a more rural setting. From below Lake Rockwell all the way to Cuyahoga Falls is another Class I-II section that allows the paddler to stay in a mostly natural setting with urban influences. In Kent, the unaware could get wet! However, the experienced paddler will get wet and smile.

Need beta on this section? Then go here to read the AW write-up.

After Kent however, things mellow out all the way to the first dam in Cuyahoga Falls at LaFeverís Restaurant. Below this dam is the put-in for those looking to run the Sheraton section which paddlers can get their beta here to read the AW write-up. So much for that myth about no whitewater!

Jon Janowski - Sheraton Section hiking up for another run of the last drop

After you paddle the great drops below the Sheraton, get ready for a flatwater workout before the next and last damn. About Ĺ way you will notice that the former Gorge Power Plant is being demolished and we should be one step closer to opening up this section of whitewater. Think about those drops you just ran and try to imagine what other rapids could be hidden below the dam pool as you reach the Ohio Edison dam.

After you portage the Ohio Edison dam make sure you hike high on river left to access as much of this last large drop before you run the Gorge.

The Gorge holds a lot of variety based upon the flow and will offer up some good play or a big water run. Get your beta here and remember to have your boat registration up to date and a permit from Metro Parks to keep the rangers happy.

After the Gorge, one could paddle the flatwater and do the strainer boogie for awhile, but I recommend driving to Boston Mills. Right below the I-271 overpass, the construction has been completed and the river bed has been cleared. There is a natural ledge that creates a perfect park and play location with eddy service on river right that extends over 100 yards downstream! Did I also mention the heated restrooms at the parking area?

Craig Homberg - Below the Ohio Edison Dam and looking to maximize the gradient

So there are some reasons as to why you should be paddling this gem. Need I say more?

Now about those Dams!

The Kent and Monroe Falls dams have been removed and the improvements to water quality have been documented. In regards to the LaFever and Sheraton dams, well stay tuned as I have a meeting in early 2009 that should shed some light on their future!

That leaves the Ohio Edison dam. The proposed hydroelectric project just wonít die. When it seemed as if FERC made a final decision on terminating the license, the project was given a new life for 3 years. I still donít understand the process or the turn of events, and the best way to stay up to speed is to frequent the Friends of the Crooked River Save the Gorge page. In addition, all submitted documents on this project can be accessed through the FERC website under the Documents & Filings heading, eLibrary, general search using Docket Number P-12484.

Kent Whitewater Park Update

The last time I reported on this project it included a discussion about potential funding from the DNR. Well in November, Kent learned that the application was not accepted and grant monies would not be available. However, we did meet with DNR to better understand the application process and what DNR would accept for grant approval. The next application will be submitted in March 2009 and be limited to 3 boater access points in Kent. In addition, the City of Kent has asked Recreation Engineering and Planning to prepare a scope of work and cost estimate for the next phase of the project (Preliminary Design/Regulatory Pre-Application Process).

Shawn Yiengling - Rt 271 Waves @ 1800 cfs

This phase of the project will outline the design requirements and permitting content for the instream modifications. While the initial DNR application was not approved, the City of Kent is trying to keep the project momentum moving forward. However, the recent financial issues affecting all aspects of spending will be problematic as communities evaluate budgets.

A summary of all news articles and City blog postings on the whitewater park project can be found at the Kent Whitewater Update webpage.

The Cuyahoga River Fire: The last 40 years

Cuyahoga Hydro Proponents Bail
posted June 12, 2009 by Kevin Colburn - AW

Today the proponents of a hydropower project on the Cuyahoga River sent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a letter withdrawing their permit request. The proposed project would have dewatered a local paddling spot called Butterfly Rapids, impacted a public park, and assured the maintenance of a dam that has long been a prime candidate for removal based on its environmental and recreational impacts. Beneath the dam's reservoir is the famed Cuyahoga Falls.

The hydropower proposal met strong opposition from MetroParks Serving Summit County, Ohio EPA, Friends of the Crooked River, local paddling clubs, and American Whitewater. Ultimately is was this opposition that resulted in the proponent backing out of their plans.

While adding or restoring hydropower to existing dams is often a relatively low impact means of generating power, this was not such a case. This project simply had too many environmental and social impacts to justify its extremely minimal power benefits. It is now hoped that the community can proceed with dam removal.

Opposition to
Metro Hydroelectric Company Power Project

in Cuyahoga Falls Gorge Metro Park
Latest News - Major Legal Victory for the Metro Parks - 9/04/08

On September 4th, 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of the Metro Parks Serving Summit County. The MPSSC was being sued by the Metro Hydroelectric Company (MHC). MHC sued the MPSSC in federal court claiming the park district was illegally interfering with a federal process by denying MHC access to Gorge Park in order to conduct studies in support of its hydroelectric project. In a major victory for all those opposed to the hydroelectric project, the appeals court ruled that access to the park property is not a federal issue and remanded the case the federal court in Akron with a recommendation that the case be dismissed. The fight to stop this project may not yet be over. MHC might attempt to pursue legal action at the state or local level. We will keep you informed of the latest developments.

Read why Friends of the Cuyahoga and the Keel-Haulers oppose the Damn project. This document provides a great summary of information about the dam details, organizations opposed to the project, historic photos, and why this project makes no sense. Friends Oppose the Dam a very large (6 MB) PDF file. It looks like everyone's hard work has paid off (for now) since the FERC pulls the plug on Cuyahoga. There is always the potential for the applicant to submit a new Notice of Intent, but the public is much better informed about the Integrated Licensing Process and prepared to continue the fight should it be required in the future. All submitted documents on this project can be accessed through the FERC website under the Documents & Filings heading, eLibrary, general search using Docket Number P-12484. If this project would have been completed, the power house would have been constructed near Butterfly Rapid and lines like this would not be possible.

John Razinski running Butterfly Rapid at 580 cfs on the AHS gage.