COVENTRY TWP. Driving along Portage Lakes Drive, some have said it looks like a space exposition, but in reality it is large construction project to build a new dam on the Portage Lakes.
Construction is ongoing on the East Reservoir, which is a part of the Portage Lakes State Park. The East Reservoir dam is 1,400-feet long and dates back to 1840. It has three sections with a maximum crest width of 40 to 50 feet and impounds approximately 900 surface acres of water.
John Wisse, who handles communications for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), said the project consists of construction a new dam in front of the existing dam. Construction began late last year and is expected to continue through early next summer on the East Reservoir.
The $30 million project is the second largest project ODNR has worked on, Wisse said.
Loads of sand were brought in along Portage Lakes Drive to create a platform for an area for trucks to work. Ruhlin Company Superintendent Michael Garver said the alternative to constructing the new dam the way it is would have been to shut down Portage Lakes Drive for construction, which would have resulted in moving utilities.
"The goal throughout has been to have as minimal impact on the community as possible," Wisse said.
Wisse said there are some minimal traffic delays along Portage Lakes Drive when trucks are exiting and entering the construction site, but the delays are brief.
Once the sand was brought in, work began to create an underground wall, which is created using a soil cement mix.
The dam has deficiencies that needed to be corrected to it into compliance with safety standards. Some of the deficiencies include insufficient storage/discharge capacity, excessive and uncontrolled seepage through and under the embankment and severe concrete deterioration on the north spillway.
The dam failed during a flood in 1913 and some improvements were made at that time. Had the current dam failed, water likely would have flooded well into downtown Akron.
Garver said the existing dam will remain the same, as the new dam, which will be entirely underground and won't be visible, will be directly in front of it. Once the project is complete, some additional soil will be brought in and grass will be planted from the lake up to the sidewalk on Portage Lakes Drive.
"The project has been well received by the community and businesses," Wisse said. "We look forward to having the dam complete for stability and longevity."
The East Reservoir project is just one of five projects ODNR has been and will be working on in the area. In 2012, improvements were made to the West Reservoir then the Tuscarawas Diversion Dam in 2015 and finally Long Lake last year.
Up next for ODNR is construction on the North Reservoir. The goal is to begin construction next year, as the project is in the planning stage.
Wisse said the North Reservoir project is slightly smaller, but construction methods will be much like those being done on the East Reservoir.
"Most of the work is going to look very similar," Wisse said.
Construction on the North Reservoir will take about a year and a half and should be completed by the end of 2020. Once the projects are complete, ODNR will be responsible for maintaining the area.