Federal support, partnership boosts critical Cuyahoga River cleanup

New EPA program will fix legacy pollution problem, bring Cuyahoga River one step closer to removal of the Gorge Dam

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Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced a new program partnership that will eliminate legacy pollution on the Cuyahoga River and move it one step closer to the removal of the century-old Gorge Dam.

EPA Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Debra Shore announced the $100 million agreement in the presence of Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan at the Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls October 25.

The cleanup program includes the safe removal of more than 875,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments accumulated behind the Cuyahoga River Gorge Dam and advance the ultimate removal of the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern from the list of 25 remaining U.S. Areas of Concern (AOCs) — highly degraded areas found across the Great Lakes basin.

The Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA), codified under the Clean Water Act, authorizes U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office to monitor and evaluate, remediate, or prevent further or renewed contamination of sediment in AOCs, including activities to restore aquatic habitat that are carried out in conjunction with a project for the remediation of contaminated sediment.

“Our role in the Gorge Dam project is a testament to the benefits of the Sewer District’s Regional Stormwater Management Program,” our CEO Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells said. “For this project, our work will focus on restoring the aquatic habitat in the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern. This work builds on the decades of the Sewer District’s work along the river.”

This project, identified for funding under the Great Lakes Legacy Act, required a 35% non-federal sponsor match which could be in the form of in-kind habitat restoration projects. Several of our Regional Stormwater Management Program projects meet the requirements of the in-kind contributions and helped to secure this funding for Cuyahoga River AOC.

The original agreement for this project between the USEPA, Ohio EPA and the City of Akron to conduct remedial design became effective in 2018 and was modified in 2021 to include additional non-federal cost share from project partners. In 2022, the Project Agreement was amended and the Sewer District was added as a non-federal sponsor.

“This project is a critical step in the river’s restoration,” an EPA press release stated today. Removing the contaminated sediments and eventually the dam itself, which dates back to 1912, will improve stream health and allow a significant portion of the river to be returned to a free-flowing natural state for the first time in more than a century.



Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Official Medium channel of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in Cleveland, OH