A river restored

June 1, 2015

North America

Powerful hydraulic breakers, supported by reliable air compressors, quickly removed two obsolete low-head concrete dams in the U.S. state of Ohio.

Underwater demolition in the midst of a river current is not a simple operation. The city of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, recently removed two concrete dams on the Cuyahoga River to help improve the quality of the water, restore the habitat and clear the way for recreational activities. The dams originally provided hydroelectric power for businesses that have long since been shuttered. RiverReach Construction, a company that specializes in environmental stream and wetland restoration projects, was responsible for the project, and Columbus Equipment Company, an authorized Atlas Copco distributor, helped RiverReach select the heavy duty breaker and compressor for the job. The first to go was the Sheraton Mill Dam. “It was almost too easy with that big breaker,” says operator Shannon Swaino. The dam came down in a day. Next was LeFever Dam, which was larger and had more water behind it. Fortunately, RiverReach was able to construct an access to the river for the first phase and Swaino could approach the dam from the downstream side afterward, so the job was completed quickly. Once the demolition phase was complete, long-hidden whitewater rapids and waterfalls were revealed, along with a few surprises, including thousands of bicycle tires traced to a 1940s bike shop in the area, and a handgun used in a 2006 robbery.

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