(WKBN) – One year ago, there were nine dams along the Mahoning River — from Leavitsburg to Lowellville — that the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments wanted to be removed. Two came down this year, which leaves seven to go. Tonight, we discuss the status of those demolitions as the effort to free the river from obstructions continues.
On Wednesday, Struthers Mayor Cat Cercone-Miller walked along the Mahoning River, admiring the area where the Struthers dam has been demolished.
“This river in Struthers has been so hidden for so long and just to see it so wide open. Just to see, just the possibilities and the things that can take place here. It’s really exciting,” Cercone-Miller said.
“There’s three in Youngtown and they’re already funded,” said Joann Esenwein.
Esenwein coordinates the dam removals for the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. A big issue is securing the money needed which, she says, comes from sponsorships. Three sponsors were needed to remove the Struthers dam, all being government agencies. For a while, the EPA shut down the dam removal program because of the pandemic.
“But now it’s back up and running. So things should start getting moving here by summertime,” Esenwein said.
According to Esenwein, Youngstown’s three dams are funded but need sponsors. The same goes for Warren’s Summit Street dam. The Leavitsburg dam just received its funding this month but must wait a year to even look for a sponsor. Then there are the two dams still used by industry, the Girard dam and the BDM dam next to the former steel mill property in Warren.
“The Girard dam, we’re working with the Army Corps, but right now we’re having the person who did our title search verify who owns the dam because there was some question there,” Esenwein said. “The BDM property is in the process of being turned over, being bought out. So until they have the new owner, we can’t even speak to them about removing the dam.”
The Lowellville and Struthers dams are down, but that may be it for a while. Esenwein says there are no dates set on when the demolitions of the Mahoning River’s seven remaining dams will begin.
Esenwein is hopeful that the money will be in place to remove all the dams in three years. Getting them taken down, though, may take up to five years.