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MAHONING RIVER Port authority may sponsor cleanup



Published: Tue, February 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The next move is for local entities to provide funds for the project.

VIENNA -- The Western Reserve Port Authority will meet Wednesday to discuss an agreement that would have the authority sponsor the Mahoning River cleanup.

The port authority was asked last summer to become lead local partner in a $100 million plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the river. The request came from the corps and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

On projects of this type, the corps is required to have a local partner with the power to both put on taxes and take land by eminent domain. The port authority is the only body that has these powers in both Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

The port authority, which runs the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, would become responsible for raising roughly $35 million that will not be covered by the federal government, and for buying 13 riverside sites needed for the dredging project.

The authority also would be responsible for river maintenance after the project is complete and be liable for potential cost overruns and problems.

The authority's meeting is set for 8 a.m. at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, 1453 Youngstown-Kingsville Road. Steve Bowser, airport interim director of aviation, said the river proposal would be discussed.

Studying the problem

The proposal to dredge contaminated soil and remove dams from Leavittsburg in Trumbull to the Pennsylvania line in Trumbull and Mahoning counties has been under study since 1998.

Locally, the project has been pushed along with grass-roots support from the Mahoning River Consortium and technical assistance from Eastgate.

To come up with the $35 million local contribution, the port authority could seek state grants, solicit money from county commissioners, or search out other funding sources, such as revenue from the special Mahoning River license plate.

Should the authority pass on being the sponsor, the sponsorship option would go to Trumbull County commissioners, according to Trumbull County planners.

Project proponents maintain a clean river could open the door for recreation activities along the waterway. In turn, it could mean more visitors to Trumbull and Mahoning counties, as well as more money for the Mahoning Valley.

The Mahoning River Consortium, now in its eighth year, has members serving on a corps steering committee that last year completed the project's feasibility study phase, which began in 2002.

Matching funds

The next move is for local entities to provide matching funds for the project to move into the pre-construction, engineering and design phase.

The dredging would remove toxic manufacturing sediment from the riverbed and banks and negate an Ohio Department of Health advisory in place since 1988, which discourages human contact with the water and eating of fish.

The work could take a decade to complete.

In 2003, corps studies indicated petroleum hydrocarbon levels in the sediment were 80 times higher than normal and mercury about 32 times higher than the safe level with the worst effects near the Pennsylvania border.




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