Portage County’s Board of Commissioners have budgeted up to $2 million dollars to modify a dam that’s not even in the county and that nobody really wants.
The deteriorating wood and concrete dam just west of Suffield Township in Summit County has long been known either as Hills Pond Dam or Petty Glen Dam. Whatever the name, it helps control the water flow out of Mogadore Reservoir.
Former County Auditor Janet Esposito, who was a Portage County commissioner from 1989 to 1995, said Portage County ended up with the dam and about five-and-a-half acres of surrounding land “because nobody else wanted it. It was kind of dumped on us.”
Built so long ago that no one we talked to remembers the year, much less the date, the dam is constructed of concrete topped by three layers of heavy wood slats that must be manually raised and lowered to control the water levels.
Today, the dam has deteriorated so much that something needs to be done. County commissioners have been considering the best course of action for almost a decade, and once rejected a plan that would result in a structure “like Hoover Dam,” county Commissioner Anthony Badalamenti said.
Believing that fixing it would likely require draining the water, county commissioners also once offered to buy swaths of land directly bordering the pond, but Badalamenti said that idea “didn’t float well” with Spring Valley Boulevard residents, who own about a dozen pond-front properties upstream from the dam.
County Commissioner Sabrina Christian-Bennett said the commissioners even once tried to give the dam to Summit County, but the offer was rejected because the dam was a liability.
Engineer Shawn W. Arden, Director of Water Resources Engineering for EMH&T, a Columbus-based firm the commissioners hired to come up with a solution, on Oct. 26 told commissioners and concerned residents what may solve the problem.
Arden suggested a two-phase solution: to maintain Hill Pond’s water level when water levels in Mogadore Reservoir drop, install a permanent rock barrier across the lake, just upstream from where the current dam is located, but downstream from the Spring Valley Boulevard homes.
Then, remove the three boards topping the current dam and build a rock-lined spillway to allow stormwater runoff to pass through the embankment.
Neither installation would be large enough to warrant state regulation, Arden said.
The top of the barrier, which would act as a “mini-dam,” would be about six inches below the lake’s usual water level, he said.
Upon project completion, the water level downstream from the dam would drop two and a half to three feet, and the area by the subdivision would drop about six inches, Arden said.
Spring Valley Boulevard residents listening to Arden balked, saying the water level has already dropped so much that they can’t use their boats and that the rock barrier would prevent them from taking their canoes downstream. They also complained about a nasty smell along the lakeshore and voiced concerns about their property values.
At that, Christian-Bennett urged the residents to meet county leaders halfway. The commissioners could simply obtain state grants to remove the dam entirely, she said, in which case Hills Pond would revert to a creek.
The residents would do well to accept EMH&T’s plan, for which the county already has budgeted $2 million, she stated.
After the meeting, and a field trip to see the dam with her own eyes, Christian-Bennett said the commissioners intend to implement EMH&T’s plan.
The public hearing, she said, was meant to roll out the chosen plan “while trying to be cognizant of the residents.” The project will be put out for public bid, and when proposals come in, actual project costs will be determined, she said.