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WARREN Agency warns city that project hurts wetland



Published: Wed, May 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Army Corps of Engineers approved the project when plans were submitted about a year ago, officials said.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH and DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- City officials say the Riverwalk project remains afloat despite a letter from a county agency saying the project is intruding on wetlands.

Trumbull County Soil and Water Conservation District sent a letter to the city May 7 informing it that the project was crossing over a wetland.

Wetlands, which are areas that support plant and animal life, are federally protected. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.

Recommendation

"Upon our investigation, this office observed a severe disturbance in the riparian zone and wetland area," wrote John Woolard, urban specialist at the conservation district. "It is the recommendation of this office that the area be restored to its original condition and enhanced to repair the detriment cause by this disturbance."

The riparian zone is the transitional area between the water itself and the surrounding land. The letter did not specify the disturbance.

Officials at Trumbull County Soil and Water Conservation District declined comment.

City officials say they aren't concerned.

"We consider it a nonissue," said Mayor Hank Angelo.

The project was given the OK from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when it initially started, he said.

The conservation district letter said the district office inspected the area for a possible wetland disturbance May 6. It says the Riverwalk and amphitheater site was reviewed by a consultant group and that report was verified by the Army Corps of Engineers.

That review recommended some adjustments to eliminate the intrusion in the riparian zone.

The project

The multiphase Riverwalk project consists of plans for construction of an outdoor amphitheater, festival grounds and a promenade. The project will link walkways and paths along the Mahoning River, from Burbank Park on the north side of town to Gould Steward Park on the south side.

Michael D. Keys, executive director of Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp., declined to comment about the letter's specifics until he talks with soil and water conservation officials. WRAP is overseeing the Riverwalk project.

"According to our plans and the [U.S.] Army Corps of Engineers we're not in a wetlands," Keys said. "When the county soil conservation officials show us what their concerns are, we'll be glad to alleviate them."

Both Keys and Angelo said Keys will meet with the soil and water conservation officials about the project.

In February 2001, Alex Bobersky, grants coordinator for the city's community development department, produced a study saying the Riverwalk project's architectural plans compromise wetlands and trees.

Bobersky came up with the Riverwalk idea in the1980s, but he was taken off the project last year.

"Mike [Keys] went out of his way when this all started to make sure all the I's were dotted and the T's were crossed with regard to all of the environmental issues," Angelo said.




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