Lowellville Sees Recreational Benefits Once Dam Removed

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After years of work, the village of Lowellville is ready to remove the First Street dam, an improvement that Mayor James Iudiciani expects will bring more people here for recreation, but that’s not the only purpose of the project.

The project would remove years of buildup of heavy metals deposited from the nearby steel mills at five areas upstream from the dam. It would also well as increase the flow of the Mahoning River, increasing oxygen levels in the water.

“That helps the warm water habitat, so we’ll see more fish spawning in that area,” the mayor said. “With that, I’m hoping to see more kayakers and fishermen. There are some down there now, but we’d like to see more of them coming through our town.”

Iudiciani also said his village is considering putting stones into the river to create a fishing area and a kayak lockup area for bikers on the path from Struthers to New Castle, which runs through the village. However, he noted, the ideas all come down to money.

“We’ve already had to scale this down to be within the money that was available,” he said.

The removal of the dam is funded by $2.3 million from the state’s Water Resource Restoration Sponsorship program. Lowellville’s funding is sponsored by Canton, where Iudiciani visited last year to provide help with the sewage system in that city.

“I never thought when I took this job in a [village] of 1,200 that I’d be in Canton, a city of 73,000, giving them advice on how to save a million dollars on their water systems,” he said at the quarterly meeting of the Mahoning River Corridor Mayors’ Association Friday. “We helped them and now they’re helping us.”

The only remaining work to be done, he said, is awaiting the results of litigation between Sharon Slag and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Sharon Slag dumped wastewater on its property that contaminated the river. The mayor said the case is expected to close Monday. The village owns half of the dam, Sharon Slag the other half.

“It’s been a battle to get all of this done, but we’re finally there. We’re this close to getting started,” Iudiciani said.

Newton Falls Mayor Lyle Waddell voiced support for removing more dams along the Mahoning to support recreation.

“There are activists and people who like to canoe down this river,” he said. “These dams are prohibitive, even with portages around them. As we take the dams out and clean the river up, we might want to look for ways to support docks and amenities for enthusiasts.”

In Girard, construction will begin later this year on a new boat launch along the river, Mayor Jim Melfi said.

At the meeting of nine mayors whose communities lie along the Mahoning River in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, they recommended that the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments put together a master plan for the removal of nine dams in the river. The plan would make it easier for communities to receive grant money from Columbus and Washington.

Several construction projects will also get underway shortly, association administrator Nick Coggins said at the meeting. Among them are work on the Niles-McDonald connector, which has been closed since 2011, and the Squaw Creek bridge in Girard, closed nearly a year. Lowellville also received an Ohio Department of Transportation grant to repave the Washington Street bridge over the Mahoning River, widen sidewalks and improve lighting.

“It’ll be more walkable and more comfortable. It’ll just be a better place to be,” Coggins said.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.