Removing the Brecksville Diversion Dam

The Brecksville lowhead dam viewed from above, surrounded by fall colors.
An aerial view of the Brecksville Diversion Dam, taken in 2009 and looking west.

NPS/Tim Fenner

For almost 200 years, a dam in the Cuyahoga River has diverted water into the Ohio & Erie Canal near Station Road. First was the Pinery Feeder Dam, built in 1827 as part of canal construction. Next was the Brecksville Diversion Dam, completed in 1952 to provide water to the American Steel and Wire Company.

In mid 2020, both dams were removed after about 30 years of collaboration among many regional partners. The purpose is to improve the health of the Cuyahoga River, a Great Lakes Area of Concern. Dams harm fish habitat, change water temperatures, and alter the natural flow of water and sediment through our waterways. By removing these two dams, we can help wildlife to recover and make our water cleaner.

During the 10-year planning process, the National Park Service needed to balance the benefits to nature with possible harm to an important historical resource: the Ohio & Erie Canal. The Brecksville Diversion Dam was still “feeding” the watered section of the canal. The section from Wilson Feed Mill to Rockside Road is designated a National Historic Landmark. The solution was to install a pump at the Pinery Feeder gate to manage the water in the canal. This custom-designed equipment was installed in January 2022. While water levels were temporarily low, the national park did maintenance work in the canal. Pump operations begin in mid-February 2022, managed by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

The Plan

The work has been done in stages. Demolition began with the Brecksville Diversion Dam notching on May 21, 2020. It ended with the Pinery Feeder Dam removal on June 24. Cleanup was completed that July. The new screw pump was set in place on January 25, 2022.

  • Notching a hole in the dam to lower the water level and slowly release a build-up of sediment (completed May 2020)

  • Formally documenting the two dams for a historical report with archival-quality photos (completed June 2020)

  • Demolishing both dams (completed June - July 2020)

  • Assessing the bedrock underneath and then designing and custom building the screw pump (completed December 2021)

  • Installing the screw pump to help control the water level in the nearby section of canal (installation in January 2022, electrical hookup in February 2022)

  • Restoring the riverbank habitat through related projects (2022+)

 
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Duration:
1 minute, 20 seconds

This silent, time-lapse video shows the demolition of the concrete Brecksville Diversion Dam, a critical step in restoring the Cuyahoga River to health. This work took place from mid-May to mid-June 2020.

 
A postcard, circa 1925, of the Cuyahoga River in Brecksville shows the Pinery Dam on right.

Dam History

Get the background on these historic structures in Brecksville.

A landscape photo of the Cuyahoga River during autumn.

Cuyahoga River Recovers

This dam removal project is part of a larger effort to restore the river and the Great Lakes.

An aerial view of the excavator crew notching the Brecksville Diversion Dam from day 1 of demolition

Dam Removal Photo Gallery

The first stage of dam demolition began on May 21, 2020. Project progress photos here.

Last updated: January 28, 2022

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15610 Vaughn Road
Brecksville , OH 44141

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