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Sewer district plans to get rid of failing Horseshoe Lake dam due to potential for disaster

Posted at 3:07 PM, Jul 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-11 15:07:09-04

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — Saturday was a perfect day to get out and enjoy the weather, and there were plenty of people doing just that at Shaker Lakes. But according to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the dams at both Horseshoe Lake and Lower Lake are failing. Officials say if it’s not addressed, it could be catastrophic for the area.

The sewer district says one thing is clear — if the dams are not fixed at both lakes, a heavy rainfall could result in extreme flooding damage and loss of life. But the way they’re proposing to prevent that has some people in the area upset.

“That park has been there certainly all my life,” said resident Frank Pekoc.

For more than a century, both lakes have been places of peace and pride for people who live in the area.

“There’s historical value in Horseshoe Lake, and I’m proud of it,” said Donte Davis, another resident in the area.

But both lakes also hold potential for disaster.

“The dams both at Lower Lake and at Horseshoe Lake could cause a loss of life in the lower part of the downstream, the Doane Brook Watershed,” said Shaker Heights councilperson Earl Williams.

The dams built in both lakes are failing, and Williams says it’s time to fix them before a storm causes extreme flooding in University Circle and other areas downstream of the lakes.

RELATED: Ohio communities face risk of failing dams in poor condition, need of repair

“This is an issue that affects multiple communities,” Williams said. “The City of Cleveland is affected by this with flooding — we have a lot of people who absolutely have a tremendous stake in University Circle.”

That’s why officials drained Horseshoe Lake in 2019.

“It’s been closed for quite a while, and everyone that lives in the area was wondering when they were going to open the dam,” Davis said.

Now the sewer district is proposing to remove the dam all together, and not refill it with water. That plan has residents like Pekoc concerned, as it would get rid of an amenity that so many enjoy.

“I don’t know how I feel about it — a little conflicted,” Pekoc said.

Resident Nan Eisenberg is conflicted as well, but says as long as the wildlife is preserved, maybe change is good.

“The Horseshoe Lake is really nice, but maybe it’s time to let it go and do something else that’s ecologically friendly and good for people to visit,” Eisenberg said.

Williams says change is not only good, but inevitable.

“You are not going to be able to have the same amenities that you had 100-200 years ago and have it not affect everyone, and this is a threat to life, so we cannot stand by and let it continue,” he said.

The sewer district’s proposal would get rid of Horseshoe Lake’s dam and restore the area to natural creeks. As for Lower Lake, the plan is to repair that dam. The cost of the proposal is about $30 million, and construction would start in 2023.

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