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Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally was in Lowellville Thursday to inspect the First Street dam on the Mahoning River and to learn what village officials and residents think about the structure.
Lowellville Village Mayor James Ludianci and neighboring communities want to demolish the dam to make way for water recreation without the obstacles of the large cement slabs and pillars in the water. He said if the dam is removed, more people would use the river and its banks at Lowellville.
“We’re excited about it. It’s a great thing, not only for Lowellville, but for Struthers, Youngstown, Campbell, the whole Mahoning Valley,” said Ludianci. “I hope it revitalizes our downtown. The more people that come in, the more traffic you have the more opportunity you have for business.”
The enthusiasm for the demolition of the dam has been community wide and caught Nally’s attention. He said he wanted to see the structure himself and meet with local officials.
“This is a community that’s revved up to improve the water conditions on the Mahoning,” said Nally. “I even got letters from the kids, third, fourth, and fifth graders sent me letters, pictures and artwork. We posted it on our website. You talk about soup to nut community involvement, this is incredible.”
Working with neighboring mayors and the Friends of the Mahoning River, the village of Lowellville applied for a $2.3 million Water Resource Restoration Sponsorship Grant from the Ohio EPA.
“If we remove all four dams, Lowellville, Campbell-Struthers, the two in Youngstown, they’re saying $30 million will be spent yearly from the tourism and the kayaks and the enthusiasts of the river,” Ludianci said.
Nally said there is a lot of work ahead before getting the green light to remove the dam. Deed work has to be done as well as sampling and environmental assessments.
“A lot of historical sediment is trapped behind these dams, and that sediment was from businesses that were over 100 years ago when we didn’t have the rules and requirements as now,” said Nally.
An aggressive timeline is in place for the project. Nally said preliminary work on the dam removal could begin as early as the summer of 2014.