Fix dam in a year, state orders

By Peter H. Milliken


The entire spillway system must be replaced and embankment stability must be maintained at the Woodside Lake dam, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources inspection report says.

A letter from ODNR accompanying the April 19 inspection report noted “collapse of the left spillway sidewall and significant seepage through the right sidewall and embankment.”

The water exiting the Woodside Lake dam goes into Ax Factory Run, which flows into Mill Creek MetroParks’ Lake Cohasset.

If the dam were to fail, Meridian Road might be damaged and a house on Kingston Lane in Youngstown, located just 7 feet above the Ax Factory Run stream bed, might be flooded, but no loss of human life is likely, ODNR said.

The state said repairs must be made within one year.

The embankment crest must be leveled so it has a uniform elevation; trees, brush and tall vegetation must be cleared from the entire embankment; rodent burrows in the dam must be repaired, and rodents must be eliminated from the dam, the state said.

Debris dumped on the downstream slope must be removed; and the dam must have an emergency action plan and an operation, maintenance and inspection manual, the state said.

The state dam inspection report did not estimate a cost for dam repair.

The state also suggested lowering the lake level by at least 2 feet until the dam is repaired or breached.

Ralph Meacham, the Mahoning County auditor, who will try to auction the dam and part of the lake Nov. 30, said the county lacks jurisdiction to lower the lake because the state owns the property.

The county auditor is merely the state’s agent, he added.

The dam that impounds the 11.7-acre lake is 15 feet high, 8 feet wide at its top and 235 feet long.

Mayor John A. McNally said the county and the state have a duty to Austintown and Youngstown residents and Meridian Road travelers to hire a professional engineer to address the deficient dam.

“We wouldn’t want anything to happen to any homes or properties downstream” in Youngstown, said Austintown Trustee Jim Davis.

If the lake has to be drained and the dam has to be breached, Davis said he hopes vegetation eventually would grow back and the Woodside Lake area would resemble a stormwater detention pond.

Unfortunately, the cost of dam repair is unaffordable to the county and the township, and likely also to the lakefront homeowners in Austintown, he said.

“If it does not sell at auction, ODNR will work with the local community to lower the risk level,” said Matt Eiselstein, ODNR public information officer.

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