GIRARD, Ohio (WKBN) – McDonald Steel is fighting to keep the Girard Dam from being removed, saying it needs the dam to run its business.
The Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber want Governor Mike DeWine to create a Mahoning River State Park. Before it can be done, nine dams between Warren and Lowellville need to be removed, including the Girard Dam.
The Girard Dam, which is on the north side of the Girard-McDonald Viaduct, is the biggest of the nine. At $10 million, it will be the most costly to demolish, which is why it is scheduled to be the last one removed.
“It is not owned by the City of Girard. It is owned by McDonald Steel,” said Girard Mayor Jim Melfi.
He was among those who recently met with McDonald Steel’s president. McDonald Steel is located about a mile north of the dam and employs about 100 people.
McDonald Steel said it still draws water from the Mahoning and needs the pool created by the dam.
Melfi said he would like to see the dam stay.
“If they did not have that capability, they would be out of business. So we’re certainly not in the business of eliminating good-paying jobs.”
McDonald Steel also owns the land around the dam. One option they’re discussing is creating a portage area around the dam.
“It’s very early in the talks, but we conveyed to the president of McDonald Steel there’s no way we want to put him out of business,” Melfi said.
A spokesperson with Friends of the Mahoning River said they’ve tried working with McDonald Steel about a portage area and were told no.
Friends of the Mahoning River want all of the dams removed.
James Dignan, president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, is also advocating for the removal of the dams along the river to open it up for things like canoeing and kayaking.
Dignan said no final decision has been made on what will be done with the Girard Dam.
He said there needs to be a study to see how much water McDonald Steel needs and if it could operate with a lower pool.
Dignan also suggested just half of the dam could be removed.
Since this would be the last of the nine dams to come down, it’s at least a couple of years away.
We don’t know which group would make the final decision. It could be the Army Corp of Engineers or the Environmental Protection Agency, or a combination of both.