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Dam Restoration Project

The Kent Dam project was first introduced to City officials in 1998 by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The modification-removal of the Kent Dam was recommended to improve water quality in the Middle Cuyahoga River.

Purpose of Project

A Total Maximum Daily Load report (required by the federal Clean Water Act and issued by the Ohio EPA) stated that this section of the river was highly influenced by dams that are no longer being utilized for their "original intended purpose." It was proposed that these dams were creating water quality problems such as dam pool stagnation, lack of proper aquatic habitat and hindrance of fish migration. The City was also informed that refusal to pursue and initiate a modification-removal of the dam would result in more stringent permit limits at the City's Water Reclamation Facility (WRF). 

City officials knew that additional infrastructure at the WRF would be an expensive venture for Kent taxpayers and would yield minimal benefits to the river water quality.

This request for modification-removal of the dam was a highly emotional issue for the citizens of Kent. Consider the unique features of the Kent Dam.

  • The Kent Dam has been an historic icon in downtown Kent for the past 165 years.
  • It was originally constructed in 1836 and was categorized as a "highly engineered structure" for its time.
  • It consists of hand-cut sandstone blocks that are stacked 14 feet high and 125 feet long in the shape of an arch.
  • It is the only known stone arch dam with a similarly constructed sandstone canal lock attached to one side.
  • The associated waterfall has been the backdrop of family photos and community events for several generations of Kent residents.

These are only a few of the reasons that the Ohio EPA's request was met with a degree of skepticism and uncertainty.

The City Administration's first concern was to minimize potential polarization within the community. City officials were aware of a strong local contingency of both historical preservationists and environmental advocates, who could potentially be at odds over the project goals. From a historical perspective, the Kent Historical Society had placed the Kent Dam on the National Register of Historic Places back in 1977. From the environmental prospective, the Kent Environmental Council had been advocating water quality improvements in the Cuyahoga River since the inception of the 1970 Clean Water Act.

The City Administration's first official action was to create the 19-member Kent Dam Advisory Committee (KDAC) for the purpose of uncovering every potential piece of information that might be relevant to the multitude of potential alternatives that could develop during the feasibility/study phase of the project. The City's primary goal was to proceed down the decision-making pathway with as much information as possible, investigating all related subjects including regulatory agencies, applicable laws, water quality, site history, fish migration, funding availability, etc.

Although this was a huge undertaking, the use of experienced consultants and the varied expertise of the KDAC members proved to very valuable assets. Although the atmosphere was a bit contemptuous at times, KDAC members were encouraged to focus on "consensus". After seven regular meetings and two public meetings, KDAC presented a preferred project alternative to Kent City Council in June of 2002.

The preferred alternative would improve water quality by creating a by-pass channel that permitted the river to flow around the Kent Dam. The river would be returned to its previously free-flowing state and would immediately satisfy all goals of the Clean Water Act. The physical fish migration barrier would also be eliminated along with water quality problems associated with the one-mile long dam pool.

However, based upon the goals of the federal National Historic Preservation Act (and the Memorandum of Agreement required by this Act), the preferred alternative also consisted of several historical elements. The primary feature was that the Kent Dam was going to remain intact as a monument to the 165 years of history and service to our City's industrial past. The re-establishment of the aesthetic waterfall was also a very important historical component. As observed throughout the KDAC process, the value of the waterfall remained high on the list "must have" historical features. The only available remedy to accommodate this was to create a re-circulating waterfall that pumped from the river into a small trough located around the lip of the dam.

Other historical elements included the partial restoration of a canal lock wall and the inclusion of eleven historical interpretive signs that highlighted the history around the site of the Kent Dam.

The "new" land (drained dam pool area) that was created directly behind the Kent Dam was transformed into "Heritage Park". This area is a combination of heavy stone slabs to armor against the river's erosive power, a grassy lawn area, a flower garden and several sandstone blocks salvaged from the canal lock area used for landscaping purposes. Three new observation platforms were also included within the project area:

  • At the newly created Main Street Bridge park entrance
  • On top of the new pumphouse
  • On top of the newly reinforced east dam abutment.

The year long construction phase was essentially completed in late 2004 with the project dedication ceremony taking place in May of 2005. The total cost of the project was $5,013,150. Project funding was provided by:

  • The City of Kent
  • City of Kent/Ohio EPA WRRSP Grant
  • City of Massillon/Ohio EPA WRRSP Grant
  • City of Ravenna/Ohio EPA WRRSP Gran
  • Clean Ohio Fund Grant
  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources Grant
  • Ohio EPA Section 319 Grant

For additional project information, please contact Bob Brown at 330-676-7241 or by email.

The City hired the expertise of three main consultants throughout the various phases of the project. They included Camp Dresser and McKee, (feasibility/design phases) ASC Group, Inc. (historical review processes) and Seidler Engineering, Inc. (construction inspection). The construction contractor was J.D. Williamson Construction Company of Tallmadge, Ohio.

Contact Us

City of Kent, Ohio
930 Overholt Road
Kent, OH 44240

Phone: 330.678.8100

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