Kent Dam wins its fifth award

Kelly Mills

The project has been completed for less than a year, but it’s already won its fifth award.

The Kent Dam in downtown Kent was a bit of a sore subject in the negotiations process, but the final product seems to be overwhelmingly popular. Water Reclamation Manager Bob Brown said the compromise between adhering to the Clean Water Act and the National Historic Preservation Act is the reason the dam has been getting so much attention.

“We tried to focus on consensus,” Brown said. “We wanted to focus on where people agreed instead of where they disagreed.”

The Builders Exchange Craftsmanship Award was bestowed on J.D. Williamson Construction Company in Tallmadge for its work on the project.

“I was really proud of them when they were selected to win that award,” said Steve Hermann, project manager for the construction company. “I think they did a really good job out there. We were really happy with the quality of work that was done out there.”

Hermann said the award was specifically given for the supervision and the backhoe work on the project. He said the backhoe operator did a good job of creating the wall that stands between the river and the dam.

“He sat in the river and stacked each piece up and built that rock wall,” he said.

The wall helps to divert the river, which was the compromise reached to fulfill the obligations of creating an area to fit the Clean Water Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency started with the Kent Dam to increase water quality in the river from a source other than waste pipes. The Clean Water Act had been in place since the 1970s, but the EPA has only recently started looking at other sources of pollution in water sources.

Brown said this was the first dam that was targeted by the Ohio EPA to increase water quality. The dam created a mile-long dam pool that became stagnant in the summer. But taking down the dam was not an option since it was protected by the National Historic Preservation Act.

Ward 3 Councilman Wayne A. Wilson said the conflict created some tension at first.

“It was a very touchy situation when we first started to deal with it,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose the historical value, and we wanted to meet the environmental requirements.”

So the river was diverted around the dam, a park was created behind the dam and an artificial waterfall is pumped over the dam.

“I think the project didn’t maybe satisfy everyone’s wishes,” Brown said, “but it did a pretty good job of satisfying the needs of the environmental and historical aspects.”

The project has gained some major attention. Wilson said a number of other communities have come to Kent to look at the dam. The project’s innovative answer to a conflict that had never before been raised has also garnered four other awards.

The Ohio EPA gave Brown an award for his work on the project and his cooperation with creating a sensible answer to the problem.

The American Council of Engineering Companies has given a state and a national award to Camp Dresser and McKee for engineering excellence for design.

A technical innovation award was also given to the project by the American Public Works Association.

Contact public affairs reporter Kelly Mills at [email protected]