Report: Industrial dams along Mahoning River can be removed with adjustments

Local News

The report was commissioned by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and prepared by MS Consultants of Columbus

(WKBN) – A report analyzing the potential removal of dams used by two industrial companies along the Mahoning River concludes the dams could be removed and, with modifications, the companies supplied with adequate water even under the most extreme drought conditions.

The report was commissioned by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and prepared by MS Consultants of Columbus. It’s 236 pages and contains mostly charts and graphs used by engineers.

But the report also addresses the dams used and owned by Warren’s Cleveland Cliffs Coke Plant and McDonald Steel. Both plants draw water from the Mahoning River.

Officials with Eastgate have said if the dams would in any way hinder operations at either plant, they would not advocate for the dams to be removed.

The dams are owned by the companies themselves, and Eastgate officials will not require the companies to tear them down.

The report states that McDonald Steel would be most affected by removal of its dam, also called the Girard dam.

“Under rare drought conditions, modifications will be needed (at McDonald Steel) to maintain low-level pumping conditions and maintain cooling water supply,” the report states.

The report outlines eight modifications needed to McDonald Steel to ensure an adequate flow of river water at all times. The estimated total cost would be $500,000.

Concerning the Cleveland Cliffs Coke plant the report states: “The modifications required to maintain the operation…are relatively minor.”

Modifying Cleveland Cliffs water intake, should the dam be removed, would be a three-step process, costing an estimated $120,000.

Eastgate Executive Director Jim Kinnick is looking for ways to help McDonald Steel and Cleveland Cliffs pay for the modifications.

“We are looking at multiple funding sources to assist with the upgrades,” said Kinnick. “We do not intend to pass the cost of the recommended upgrades, identified in the report, to the mills.”

First News has contacted both Cleveland Cliffs and McDonald Steel about their plans for their dams but has not heard back from either company.

Eastgate has recommended nine dams along the Mahoning River be demolished to allow for improved use for canoeing and kayaking.

Fewer dams would also allow the river to flow naturally and help the river, which was long polluted by the steel industry, to continue to clean itself up.

The Lowellville dam has already been removed, and demolition of the Struthers dam is expected to start in May.

Warren City Council on Wednesday voted to remove the Summit Street dam, which is expected to be completed by 2023.

The funding is also in place to remove three dams in Youngstown, though no date for demolition has been set.

It’s also been proposed the Leavittsburg dam be demolished. Some people living along the Mahoning River in Leavittsburg have opposed its removal.

The report briefly mentions the Leavittsburg dam stating that removing it “would not impact the intake requirements needed by the McDonald Steel and Cleveland Cliffs facilities.”

The report, however, did not recommend if the Leavittsburg dam should remain or be demolished. It’s owned by the Trumbull County MetroParks. The Metro Parks Board of Directors is expected to vote whether to demolish the dam at its April meeting.

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