A citizens committee urges dam repair and construction of a water treatment plant.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
GIRARD -- Merely emptying water out of lower Girard Lake pending dam repair may not be sufficient to remove the flood hazard caused by the badly deteriorated 1920-vintage dam, a state official said here Thursday.
"Generally, we do not allow that,'' said Mark B. Ogden, administrator of the water management section of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which inspects and regulates dams.
"The situation that you have now is a hazard, and failure of the dam and release of the reservoir is an extreme hazard to people and property downstream," Ogden said.
Even with the dam gates open, a heavy rain, or series of rains, could refill the lake and put pressure on the dam, possibly causing it to fail, he said. For ODNR to approve merely emptying the lake pending dam repair, an engineer would have to conclude that complete draining of the lake with the dam gates open would not create an unsafe condition in the event of a major downpour, he said.
The state generally considers any dam nonhazardous after it's been breached, which means removal of a significant part of the dam so it won't impound water during a storm, he said. "If you could remove a portion of the dam in the interim period, and then rebuild it, then that might be a possibility," Ogden said.
Ogden was addressing a meeting of the Citizens Committee on Property Research at the multigenerational center, the former Tod Woods School.
Proposal to drain lake
The committee has issued a written proposal to partially drain the lake pending repair of the dam, build a water treatment plant and provide a water source for Trumbull County communities.
Councilman Charles Doran, D-4th, chairman of council's property research committee, who chaired Thursday's meeting, advocates continuing efforts to explore other revenue-generating methods so Upper and Lower Girard lakes aren't sold. He said the citizens committee favors "a phased-type project" of dam reconstruction, while the lake is reduced to a safe level, without breaching the dam.
"If the lake would fill up and begin to [overflow] the dam, there's a possibility that the dam could be just pushed over, and it would fail," said Kathy Anderson, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District, which is administering federal funds for repair of the hazard.
Anderson said Congress has authorized only $2.5 million in federal funds for the project, but repairing the dam to make it safe will cost about $7 million. "Right now, if you empty the lake, and a succession of storms comes along, it's going to fill it back up again," she said. The federal money can be used to partially breach the dam, she said. Removal of the dam would not increase downstream flooding, she said.
Mayor James J. Melfi has said the city, which has been under state-imposed fiscal emergency since August, is approaching a crossroads where it must sell both Upper and Lower Girard Lakes to maintain services.