YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The state made a big investment in the Mahoning Valley on Monday. The governor’s budget provided some critical funding for a major project that will help shape the Valley’s future.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) provided $2 million to help the Mahoning River Corridor Restoration Plan.
Phase one is removing nine dams, allowing the river to flow more naturally.
“We feel we have five of the nine dams fully funded. This will help us with the funding of the next three,” said Jim Kinnick, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.
“Lowellville already got the ball rolling and now with this project right here, we’re going to knock out the three dams that are right here downtown and then it’s just going to keep going,” said Sen. Michael Rulli.
The Girard dam is going to be the most difficult to remove because of its size. That may be a $10 million project, but work continues to get the money necessary for it.
The Mahoning River flows and winds for over 20 miles throughout the area.
In addition to removing the dams, nearly 7,000 acres are ready to be reclaimed for public use and benefit.
“It opens up an opportunity for economic and environmental revitalization to this community,” said Mindy Bankey, ODNR assistant director.
The project is more than just reopening the river for recreation. It’s also about developing projects on-shore, including new entertainment districts and new business opportunities.
“If you see what’s going on in Columbus, their development of their river has really helped their economic development,” said Sen. Sean O’Brien.
It’s a blueprint that will benefit the 160,000 people who live in communities along the waterway and the thousands more who live close by.
The Mahoning River is changing and we’ll see major changes within the next five years.
“It is unique because we’re usually building roads and bridges, highways, but this is really a vision of the Valley. A vision to revitalize the Valley, bring us back,” Kinnick said.
The Youngstown Amphitheatre was built close to one of the dams that will be removed in the future, and it’s already been a huge hit.