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GIRARD Engineers update dam's crisis plan



Published: Sun, September 30, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Lower Girard Lake Dam is not in imminent danger of failing, an engineer said.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- An emergency plan is being updated so that the city is prepared, should Lower Girard Lake Dam fail.

Mayor James Melfi said the plan is being developed by Burgess & amp; Niple, a Columbus-based engineering and architectural firm.

Melfi said he ordered the updated plan after being told by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that the concrete dam needs to be replaced.

"The dam is not in imminent danger of failing," said Dennis Meek, Burgess and Niple's director of utilities design section.

"Age is definitely catching up with it," Meek added, noting the dam was constructed in 1917 and improvements were made in 1930.

The plan should be completed in about a month, he said.

Replacement cost: The cost of replacement is $10.2 million to a city that has financial woes, resulting in its being placed under state fiscal emergency.

"The city can't afford $10.2 million. It might as well be $10.2 billion," Melfi asserted.

"It has major deterioration of the concrete," Melfi said.

He also noted that the earthen dam at Upper Girard Lake has shown "some wear and tear."

"The likelihood of failure is very remote," Melfi said.

He noted that ODNR told him it would take 36 inches of rain in nine hours before the structure could fail.

Meek termed the rainfall a "probably maximum flood that nobody has ever experienced."

Should the concrete dam at the lower lake fail, Melfi explained, a "few evacuations" in the Squaw Creek Drive area of the North Side would be required.

Overflow path: Most of the water would flow down a deep ravine along Squaw Creek and empty into the Mahoning River, he said.

The city purchased the lakes for $2.5 million in the mid-1990s and has defaulted on a loan from the Ohio Water Development Authority to finance the deal.

The lakes and 1,000 acres around them were purchased from Consumers Ohio Water Co. They were bought under a long-range plan for making the lakes a source of water for resale because of water rate increases by the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District.

The city buys water from Niles and Youngstown that is supplied by the MVSD.

Girard learned, however, that the cost of a water filtration plant would be $15 million.

Melfi said the city had received a $900,000 federal grant to pay for a study and preliminary engineering to replace the lower dam.

The mayor said city officials believed federal funds would be made available to replace the dam, but no funds were ever received.

The city has $585,000 remaining of the $900,000 grant. "It wasn't touched in all this [financial] turmoil," the mayor said.

Alternative: Melfi explained the money gives the city an alternative to dam replacement -- breaching the dam -- to assure safety, and protect itself from "massive liability."

Breaching the Lower Girard Lake Dam removes the need for replacing it.

Sediment that may be polluted and left behind, the mayor explained, may not have to be removed because of an ODNR program. The state's wetlands mitigation program allows land developers who destroy wetlands to develop wetlands in other areas -- such as those created by the draining the lower lake.

The surrounding land could then be sold off for development, Melfi added.

yovich@vindy.com




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