Sewer District re-invokes funding ultimatum for new Horseshoe Lake dam


CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — As the City Council planned to continue discussions this week on a proposed “Plan B” for Horseshoe Lake and the dam, officials from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District had previously recalled that funding would be withdrawn for any alternative designs.

That includes a dam of some kind, by the way, based on recent correspondence NEORSD Watershed Programs Director Frank Greenland sent to the respective mayors and city councils of Shaker and Cleveland Heights.

“As a follow-up (to separate meetings with the two towns in April and May), I would like to reiterate several points and reaffirm the position of the Sewer District regarding the approach suggested by the Friends of Horseshoe Lake and TRC ( engineering) to deal with the growing state of deterioration” of the dam there, Greenland said.

Being an artificial lake built by the Shakers around 170 years ago, Greenland said Horseshoe Lake and the dam should have some form of justification for the impact on water quality, ongoing maintenance and the risk of structural failure.

Greenland notes that the Horseshoe Lake Dam does not provide drinking water, does not provide hydroelectric power, and plays no role in commerce. And based on analysis of regional sewer districts and data based on multimillion-dollar studies, that’s not controlling flooding.

“As a result, the sewer district cannot pay for the reconstruction of the Horseshoe Lake Dam under the regional stormwater management program,” Greenland said. “The Sewer District will also not pay for a new dam at Horseshoe Lake Park, no matter how high.”

Since they’re leasing the park to the city of Cleveland, that could leave Shaker and Cleveland Heights on the hook for more than $20 million, the sewer district’s projected cost for rebuilding the Horseshoe Lake Dam, though the TRC engineers say it could be done, even with some long-awaited dredging, for less than that.

“We can, however, fully fund and maintain the restoration of Doan Brook there,” Greenland said of the current Horseshoe Lake site, which has been drained since 2019 by order of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the dams. of “class I”. .

According to its current recommendations, NEORSD would spend approximately $14 million each on Lower Lake Dam, which would be rebuilt to modern Class I standards, and Horseshoe, replacing the lake and dam with a restored creek (two branches) and a floodplain with natural habitat.

NEORSD’s meetings with Shaker Heights Council in April and Cleveland Heights in May were primarily to update the cities on the team that will be working on the $1.5 million pre-design plan through next May. , followed by another year of detailed design, with construction expected to begin in late 2024.

And both city councils have already signed resolutions agreeing to sewer district plans for Horseshoe Lake and Lower Shaker Lake and the dam, though Cleveland Heights added an amendment calling on NEORSD officials to “stay open.” alternative proposals” if external funding becomes available. who could save the dam and Horseshoe Lake.

Noting that “many residents cherish Horseshoe Lake for its historical significance, tranquil aesthetic, bird sanctuary, and overall as an important amenity to the region,” the Cleveland Councilwoman’s amendment Heights, Melody Joy Hart, “encourages NEORSD, before and during the design phases, to be open to other ideas from the community that preserve the lake and protect public safety, while effectively managing stormwater and not imposing financial burden on the city.

Then, at the Cleveland Heights council meeting on June 6, TRC geotechnical engineer Shawn McGee and Friends of Horseshoe Lake attorney Anthony Coyne made an initial presentation proposing that storage capacity flood action could be improved by constructing a smaller “class III” dam in front of the existing one. which Greenland notes remains in a “dangerous state of failure and exceptionally bad condition”.

Coyne argued that the long-neglected Horseshoe Lake and Dam continue to be the scapegoat for other deficiencies in the sewer district’s regional stormwater system, including those already present downstream in – and under. – University Circle, where the potential threat to human life from flooding exists.

In its undated letter to officials of both cities (believed to be late May 2022), Greenland alluded to ODNR officials’ acknowledgment that if the Horseshoe Lake Dam were modified to a “size significantly smaller”, it would not fall under the jurisdiction of their agency.

Greenland said this option had also been considered by the sewer district and rejected earlier.

“A new, smaller dam would still impede Doan Creek and not provide flood control benefits or improved water quality and habitat,” Greenland said. “To reiterate, the Sewer District will not pay for the modification or reconstruction of another dam at Horseshoe Lake Park.”

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Heights City Council, TRW and Friends of Horseshoe Lake were scheduled to discuss the proposal further on Tuesday, June 21 at the Committee of the Whole meeting.

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