Akron reservoir proposal raises questions

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Some area officials think so, but others aren't ruling it out.

Akron has proposed taking up to 5 million gallons of water daily from Lake Rockwell in Franklin Township and Streetsboro, located in the Lake Erie basin. The water would be used to serve residents from Springfield, Copley and Coventry Townships, located in the Ohio River basin, as part of a JEDD agreement.

Communities in the "middle Cuyahoga" communities of Kent, Munroe Falls, Silver Lake and Cuyahoga Falls fear the diversion would further aggravate problems of low water flow in the Cuyahoga River. That could lower oxygen levels in the river and harm the species that live in and around the river.

Now, Akron has proposed adding a new reservoir to its system, which would ensure Akron has enough water to serve its customers, and has enough left over for the Cuyahoga River. The proposed reservoir, about 2.5 miles south of Burton, was discussed during a public hearing on the diversion sponsored by State Sen. Leigh Herington of Kent. The reservoir would be Akron's fifth, and the fourth one along the upper Cuyahoga River.

Because Lake Rockwell is filling with sediment, it cannot hold as much water as it once did, Akron officials have said. Sedimentation also affects algae growth and water taste.

Akron Deputy Mayor James Phelps said if the proposal becomes reality, communities in the middle Cuyahoga would be asked to share in the costs. If a city wanted 20 percent more water, they might have to pay 20 percent of the cost of the reservoir.

Portage County Commissioner and former Kent Mayor Kathleen Chandler was at the meeting held in Coventry Wednesday, where Phelps announced the potential reservoir. She said she wouldn't rule the idea out.

"I have no quarrel about communities getting together to decide the best use of natural resources," Chandler said. "When we talk about natural resources we need to be cooperative and not be in conflict all the time."

But Larry Valentine, water utilities superintendent in Cuyahoga Falls, said the proposal proves what he and other members of the middle Cuyahoga group have been saying all along _ Akron doesn't have enough water to serve its customers and keep the river healthy after all.

"It just flabbergasted us that they'd come up with something as ridiculous as that," he said. "We're objecting to Akron controlling the river anyway. All we want to do is get a guarantee of a certain amount of water to keep the river healthy. What a plan. What a plan."

Kent City Manager Lew Steinbrecher said city officials were analyzing the proposal and had no comment.

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