Unknown to state and federal agencies, a property owner was re-routing a mile and a half of the Chagrin River supposedly to reduce erosion and flooding.
The EPA says the property owner is Jerome Osborne, Sr., founder of the Osborne Excavating Company.
The village allows Osborne to farm 150 acres of village-owned property along the river in exchange for Osborne loaning the city excavating equipment as needed for village projects.
Village Law Director I. James Hackenberg says that includes making modifications to the river bank.
According to the Ohio EPA, Osborne over the past year has removed nearly 250,000 cubic yards of stone and gravel from the riverbed, piling it along the river banks in mounds up to 30 feet high.
Law Director Hackenberg says the village never knew the extent of the modifications being made to the river.
"The nature and extent of which the village never had any involvement with," he said.
Osborne did not return Channel 3 News calls requesting comment.
"I have never seen anything even approaching what's happened here in my career," said Paul Anderson of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Anderson said what was an attempt to control erosion and flooding actually had the opposite effect.
"The river's natural flood plain dissipates flood water gently and gradually."
"Deepening the channel and creating walls along the river is like exchanging a shotgun for a small bore rifle. The river water will now move downstream faster and with greater force, magnifying flooding problems downstream."
The communities of Willoughby Hills and Eastlake already experience flooding most years, usually with the spring thaw.
"This will funnel more and more water in a flood and transfer that water downstream more quickly," Anderson said.
Besides the flood danger, the excavating of the riverbed had damaged the ecology of the protected scenic river. In the affected area no fish are visible and there are almost none of the species that provide food for fish.
The Ohio EPA is now enumerating the village's violations of state regulations.
The federal government may intervene as well.
Anderson said the river will likely have to be returned to its previous condition.
That will mean returning an estimated 6 thousand truckloads of stone to the riverbed.