STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s been a very long time coming, but officials from the Ohio EPA joined local leaders Thursday to check the progress of removing a pair of old concrete dams from the Mahoning River, and in the process, dredging away polluted sediment that’s been here for decades.
“We would have never been able to do anything without the partnership with the EPA,” said Struthers Mayor Cat Cercone Miller.
Cercone Miller says her city received almost $4 million from the EPA and other agencies, while Lowellville was given nearly $2.5 million to remove its dam.
“There are partnerships that are found through Ohio EPA and ODNR that are making it a better place plus cleaning up the river — number one,” said Lowellville Mayor Jim Iudiciani.
For generations, the steel mills that once lined the river needed these dams as a way to control water flow. Now, the dams and what’s left of them are an impediment to future growth and efforts to clean up the river.
“With our river, the possibilities there are really endless when it comes to the different things we can bring here,” said Cercone Miller.
In a meeting with state officials, mayors with the Mahoning River Corridor of Opportunity were told there are potentially millions in state and federal funds that could be available for local projects, especially with trillion-dollar infrastructure bills being debated in Washington.
“Money tends to go where communities have been thinking about doing something and getting ideas put to paper and talking to people,” said Laura Factor, a spokesperson for Ohio EPA.
Already, local officials have been working to secure more funding needed to remove six or seven other dams between Youngstown and Newton Falls.