The area could realize $2.5 million a year from river recreation.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning River Consortium is making plans for dredging pollutants from the Mahoning River, after two years of study.
The consortium for Mahoning and Trumbull counties, now in its eighth year, continued to move forward with river restoration last year and added land preservation to its accomplishments.
Trish Nuskievicz, consortium president, said members serving on the Army Corps of Engineers' steering committee this year completed the feasibility study phase of the planned $100 million, 31-mile, Mahoning River dredging project. This phase began in 2002.
Nuskievicz, who also is a planner with the Trumbull County Planning Commission, said the next move is for local entities to provide matching funds for the project to move into the pre-construction, engineering and design phase.
What is expected
The dredging would remove toxic manufacturing sediment from the river bed and banks extending from Leavittsburg to the Pennsylvania line and negate an Ohio Department of Health advisory in place since 1988, which discourages human contact with the water and eating of fish.
In 2003, Army 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.
Nuskievicz said with environmental standards in place there is "nowhere near the contaminants" entering the river as in past decades.
A recent benefit analysis of a clean Mahoning River prepared by the Army Corps and its partners estimated the area could realize from direct recreation alone some $2.5 million a year from a clean, restored Mahoning River.
Additionally, creative talks proceeded this year among the river consortium, the EPA and the Army Corps to one day use stabilized Mahoning River dredgings to cover a 120-acre brownfield site on former Copperweld Steel property. Nuskievicz noted that a court-ordered $4.3 million has been set aside to the EPA to aid in the cleanup.
Another positive development for the river's health and future recreational opportunities will be the dismantling of two low-level dams -- Lovers Lane and North River Road-Copperweld -- by this spring.
Following an application by the Trumbull County Planning Commission, the Ohio Department of Transportation District 4, through its stream restoration program, agreed to a re-arranging of the dam stonework to allow natural flow as well as to create wildlife habitat.
As for land preservation, 2004 marked the river consortium's first successful applications for Clean Ohio Conservation grants.
This allowed for the acquisition of the 25-acre Cranberry Run Wetlands, donated to project partner Mill Creek MetroParks; and a 100.5 acre-parcel on the north side of the recently repaired Warren-Sharon Road bridge, donated to partner Howland Township for its growing preserve system.
Completing a corridor
The Howland parcel completes a protected corridor along Mosquito Creek from the bridge to North River Road, including the township park, with a boardwalk trail through the wetlands planned.
Land protection along Mosquito Creek was also secured through Clean Ohio approvals in 2002 and 2003 and added more than 200 acres of preserve land to Howland, and Trumbull Metroparks between Elm Road and North River. Nuskievicz said she hopes a landlocked area between the two parcels can be acquired to create another protected corridor.