Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 8-9-2021

AUGUST 9, 2021 – Special joint session with Shaker Heights City Council re: Shaker Lakes


  • NEORSD proposal
  • Questions from council members and the public:
    • The need for Horseshoe Lake Dam demolition
    • Post project development
    • Role of the cities
    • Environmental considerations
    • Public input


Cleveland Heights Council Vice President Kahlil Seren, members Craig Cobb, Mary Dunbar, Melody Hart, Davida Russell and Michael Ungar were present. Council President Jason Stein was absent. Also present were Cleveland Heights City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil, Shaker Heights Mayor David Weiss, and four or five Shaker Heights council members.

NEORSD proposal

The two councils met to discuss the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) proposal for Shaker Lakes. Shaker Heights Mayor Weiss and Cleveland Heights Council Vice President Kahlil Seren presided. About 130 residents attended this in-person event at the Cleveland Heights Community Center.

Mayor Weiss said the two city councils have been working with NEORSD for continued transparency and presentation of factual information to the public. The rapid deterioration of the Horseshoe Dam has made this an urgent matter. Another public meeting for this issue will take place August 17.

Mr. Seren noted that the Cleveland Heights council recognizes the interest of Cleveland Heights residents in the Shaker Lakes, an asset shared with Shaker Heights. He said no deliberation or decision-making would take place tonight, then introduced Frank Greenland, NEORSD Director of Watershed Programs, who summarized his June 14, 2021 presentation. The recommendation from his team of experts is to remove the Horseshoe Lake Dam, restore the Lower Shaker Lake Dam and replenish both Doan Brook branches with native species of plants while removing invasive plant and fish species. Both dams are out of compliance with ODNR (Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources) regulations and are unsafe. Recent rain events have seriously damaged the Horseshoe Lake Dam, which is failing. The NEORSD recommendation was made with consideration for the environment, safety, and reduction of flood risk. The proposed project will cost $28.3 million and be underwritten by the rates residents pay to NEORSD. Mr. Greenland emphasized that the communities around the lakes would be involved in planning and development of the design. Pre-design discussions will start in August 2021, construction of the Horseshoe Lake component will start in 2024, and Lower Shaker Lake construction would begin a year later.

Questions from council members and the public:

The need for Horseshoe Lake Dam demolition

Even if money were no object, Mr. Greenland maintained that the dam must be removed. Shaker Heights Public Works Director Patricia Speece said that recent heavy rain events have revealed six- to eight-inch cracks in the spillway. Emergency repair is necessary immediately, which Shaker Heights will do soon. Staff check the dam after each rain event. Mr. Greenland said the dam is in an active state of failure with water seepage causing voids and sinkholes in the earthen structure and cracks in the concrete. ODNR ordered drainage of Horseshoe Lake. Mr. Greenland said that cost/benefit analysis showed that restoring Horseshoe Dam would not provide significant flood control whereas restoring and repairing the Lower Shaker Dam would do so.

Post project development

Responding to concerns about possible residential/commercial development after completion, both Mr. Weiss and Mr. Stein noted that the leases the two cities have with the landowner, the City of Cleveland, do not allow for development on the park land.

When asked about preserving the 170-year historical nature of the dam, Mr. Greenland reassured the audience that educational and historical displays are being discussed to preserve the history of the dam.

Additional park areas could be developed after project completion but funds for that would have to come from the respective city.

Role of the cities

Mr. Seren and Mr. Weiss said the cities could reject the project but then would be responsible for maintaining the lakes and dams and complying with regulatory agencies. Mr. Greenland did not have details to say what those maintenance costs would be but said that when the lakes need to be drained, it costs an estimated $10 million to remove two feet of sediment.

Environmental considerations

When asked about environmental consideration and the capacity of NEORSD staff, Mr. Greenland responded that environmental experts were on the team that made this recommendation. The stream restoration project would be guided by environmental experts and the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership. The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes and the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership support the NEORSD plan. Ms. Hart suggested that Cleveland Heights hire an independent environmental expert and that the project should reflect sustainability.

Public input

There will be many opportunities for the residents of both communities to have input during the design process. All questions, even those not answered at the meeting, will be answered and posted on the websites of both cities.

LWV Observer: Gail Larson. 

View the full meeting at Cleveland Heights Council Committee of the Whole August 9, 2021 - YouTube.

Read More on Cleveland Heights
Volume 14, Issue 9, Posted 1:06 PM, 08.24.2021