Ohio Pledges $25M In Lawsuit Settlement Money To Help Remove Gorge Dam On Cuyahoga River

The state of Ohio will use $25 million in settlement money from Monsanto to help pay to remove the Cuyahoga River Gorge Dam, Gov. Mike DeWine’s office announced Friday.

Gorge Dam demolition and cleanup moves ahead with new agreement - cleveland.com

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says the announcement is a “key step” – though not the final one – toward getting the state and local funding needed to restore the river’s Big Falls and resolve what’s been called the river’s largest remaining water-quality problem.

The $25 million will come out of an $80 million settlement that Monsanto, an agribusiness company owned by pharmaceutical giant Bayer, reached with the state earlier this year over the company’s decades-long production of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs — toxic compounds that weren’t manufactured in Ohio but have polluted the Cuyahoga River and other Ohio waterways. As part of the settlement, Ohio agreed to use the money for environmental projects.

The money will cover the $24.5 million that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and local partners pledged several years ago to put toward removing the dam, situated near the mouth of The Gorge MetroPark, between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls.

In all, the project is expected to cost about $175 million, according to an Ohio EPA fact sheet. That estimate includes about $15 million to remove the dam itself and roughly $160 million to remove about 800,000 cubic yards of sludge behind the dam that’s contaminated with toxic heavy metals, oil and grease left over from the region’s industrial heyday.
Part of the cost will likely be covered by the federal government. Ohio recently applied for federal funding under the Great Lakes Legacy Act. The $15 million to remove the dam itself could come via the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Additional state funding could come from the Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program and Gov. Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio program.

The design for the dam removal is scheduled to be completed by next spring. After that, local and state officials will work on a final agreement with the U.S. EPA, including exactly how much will be covered by the feds and what the state and locals will pay, according to Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heidi Grismer.
Summit Metroparks will remove trees soon to prep the site where the sediment will be stored, Grismer stated in an email.
Removing the dam would encourage tourism, help the local fish population by increasing oxygen levels in the water, and allow whitewater kayaking along that stretch of river.
The dam, which is 58 feet tall and 425 feet wide, was built in 1913 to provide hydroelectric power, but no electricity has been generated there since 1958, according to a release from DeWine’s office.

Improving water quality across the state has been a key focus of my administration, and generations of Ohioans will benefit from the improvements that will be realized by removing the Gorge Dam,” DeWine said in a statement. “This project will return the Cuyahoga River to a free-flowing river from Kent to the mouth of Lake Erie, will vastly improve water quality in the Cuyahoga River, and will pave the way for recreation, tourism, and economic development opportunities in this area.”

A state PCB Advisory Board, which recommended putting the $25 million toward the dam-removal project, is now accepting proposals from state agencies, other public entities, nonprofit groups, and universities on how to spend the remaining $55 million in settlement money, according to the release.

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