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Mahoning River Ecological Restoration Project

Community outreach of any kind greatly enhances the Valley's current effort to restore the Mahoning River. As you may know, US Army Corps of Engineers has designated the Mahoning River as one of five most contaminated rivers in the United States. While we are not proud of being one of five most contaminated river in the United States, we understand that producing 10% of the Nation's steel comes at a significant cost - the destruction of the animating artery of our Valley, the Mahoning River.

In 1988 the Ohio Department of Health issued a contact and fish consumption advisory for the lower Mahoning River beginning at the City of Warren and extending to the Ohio Pennsylvania State line. This portion of the Mahoning River flows through eight municipalities - the City of Warren, the City of Niles, the Village of McDonald, the City of Girard, the City of Youngstown, the City of Campbell, the City of Struthers, and the Village of Lowellville. These cities have a combined population of 186,670 (Census 2000). The contact advisory essentially discourages these municipalities from tapping into the economic development benefits of this water resource like other Ohio communities have successfully done, such as our neighbors to the north along the Cuyahoga River.

Community by community, we are beginning to realize the magnificent role a river, such as the Mahoning, can play in reclaiming and revitalizing cities. The City of Youngstown, in its Youngstown Vision 2010 plan, identifies the Mahoning River as "The corridor that ties us together".

A 1999 US Army Corps of Engineer's Reconnaissance Study of the Mahoning River indicated that the benefits of cleaning the river far outweigh the costs to clean it up. Indeed, this was good news for the Mahoning River. Now, a year into the second phase of the Mahoning River Environmental Dredging Project the Feasibility Study phase, interest has grown. Interest has grown so significantly that community groups, many which are not environmental in focus, have begun to take notice and become involved in the river restoration effort.

Regional cooperation is essential for the success of the Mahoning River Environmental Dredging Project. To move into the Feasibility Study phase of restoration project, the USACE required a local sponsor to serve as the liaison between the USACE and the local communities, and to be the fiscal agent of the local share. The local share equated to 50% of the Feasibility study price tag or $1,500,000. At the eleventh hour, upon the unexpected withdrawl of a local sponsor, Eastgate agreed to take the lead.

At the same time Eastgate signed contracts with USACE, the Mahoning River Consortium, local governments, the Ohio EPA, and the private sector, in a joint effort, raised the local share affording the Valley the $3,000,000 project. The Feasibility Study addressed how best to remove contaminated sediments from the river and its banks.

The Mahoning River Environmental Dredging Project is the second largest USACE restoration project, second only to the restoration of the Everglades. This exercise in regional cooperation prepares us for what is down river. Eastgate, the USACE, local government, and the Mahoning River Consortium continue to work to identify strategies to secure the estimated $35,000,000 in local funds needed to see this momentous project through.

A regional concern directly impacting the success of the Mahoning River Environmental Dredging project focuses on how best to identify and deal with the brownfields that lie adjacent to the river. The cities that mushroomed on the banks of the Mahoning River contain over 6,500 acres of abandoned, and possibly contaminated land that once housed the steel mills and fabricating plants of our Valley. Eastgate works with local communities in identifying the brownfields and assists with their clean up efforts.

As you can see, Eastgate has played, and will continue to play an integral role in the revitalization of the Mahoning River, through all of its cooperative ventures, regional alliances, and steadfast commitment to better living in the Mahoning Valley. Contact Eastgate's Jenny Geilhard at jgeilhard@eastgatecog.org  or (330) 779-3800 for updated information regarding the project or the status of its phases.


The Mahoning River Dredging Project - A Beginning

During a signing ceremony on Saturday, March 9th,2002, the US Army Corps of Engineer Commander of the Pittsburgh District, Colonel Ray Scrocco, Eastgate Regional Council of Government's Executive Director, John Getchey, and First Place Bank's Caroline York authorized agreements that will lay the ground work for the clean up of the Mahoning River.

This group was responsible for launching the Feasibility Study of the Mahoning River Restoration Project. Here's how. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency notified the Mahoning River Consortium (MRC) of the opportunity to link with City of Massillon, through the Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program, to receive the local matching funds needed to access the federal share. In return for the City of Massillon's commitment to sponsor the Mahoning River Restoration Project, a $75,000 administration fee plus a one-time $5,250 application fee needed to be raised locally and paid to the City of Massillon. The MRC immediately convened a meeting of local leaders to present this once in a life-time opportunity. Nine municipalities along the River, Mahoning and Trumbull Counties, and several non-profit organizations including the MRC, CASTLO, and the Audubon Society pledged contributions. Trumbull County went a step further and carried a torch that ignited the fervor of the private sector to invest in the long-term viability of the Mahoning Valley.

Clearly, the Mahoning Valley believes that its River can be converted from a liability to a proud feature within our community. Today, this dream is a little closer to reality. This exercise in regional cooperation will prepare us for what's down river. The MRC continues to work to identify how to secure approximately $35 million in local funds needed to match a future $65 million federal grant to see this momentous project though.