Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Buoys warn of dangerous dams

Published: 3/24/17 @ 12:05

By Peter H. Milliken



The Mahoning River will be safer for canoeists and kayakers now that six state-issued warning buoys are being installed to mark three industrial dams that present potential drowning hazards.

Some of the buoys were installed Thursday afternoon from a fire department rescue boat by firefighters and Jennifer Jones, environmental, community and neighborhood services coordinator for Green Youngstown.

Green Youngstown is responsible for the city’s litter control, recycling and other beautification and environmental matters.

The buoys, collectively worth about $900, came in response to Jones’ grant application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“If people decide to kayak and canoe down here, it’ll give them a heads up to where these dams are,” said city Fire Capt. Gene Cook, just before the fire department boat was launched from Roger Lindgren Way near Vallourec Star.

“When the water’s high, you really can’t even see the dams,” he added.

Making the Mahoning River cleaner and more attractive for recreational boating could help attract people and businesses to the area, he said.

He said he would rate the Youngstown section of the Mahoning River as advanced in terms of the knowledge and skill needed to safely kayak and canoe on it. “Especially with the dams and all the different pieces of trees that are sticking out, I think you have to know what you’re doing,” he added.

“There are three low-head dams left over from our age of steel mills, and those dams can make it dangerous and or difficult to navigate the waters in a canoe or a kayak,” on the Youngstown section of the river, Jones said.

“We have a growing recreational use on the river. We have a lot of new kayakers and new canoers that are going down the river and seeing the beauty,” she added.

The warning buoys, which bear signs saying “Danger Dam,” are especially helpful for out-of-town boaters, who may not be familiar with the river and the obstacles within it, Patricia Dunbar of Howland, president of the Friends of the Mahoning River, said when the buoy award was announced last year.

The Friends advocate for the cleanliness and recreational use of the river, restoration of the river to its natural state and environmental education concerning that waterway.

The dams and the turbulent waters around them “can pose a safety threat to small watercraft,” Jones wrote in her successful request for the navigational aids grant from ODNR.

The most dangerous of the three dams is the intact dam at Crescent Street, whose hydraulics pose a drowning hazard, Jones wrote.

That dam got two upstream buoys to warn people headed downriver of the mandatory portage there, and two downstream buoys to warn people paddling upstream to stay away from the dangerous swirling waters beneath the dam, Jones said.

The take-out area for portages at that dam is owned by the Brier Hill Slag Co., whose owner, William Gaffney, has given boaters permission to carry their canoes and kayaks over his company’s land for their portages, Jones informed ODNR in her application for the buoys.

The other two buoys will be placed upstream soon from the broken dams at Mahoning Avenue and Center Street to warn boaters headed downstream.

Boaters can either portage around these two dams or paddle their boats through chutes at notches in the dams.

For boaters headed downstream, the chute is at the far right at the Mahoning Avenue dam and in the middle of the Center Street dam.

Boaters should paddle to the left after traversing both chutes to avoid rocks and woody debris.

The floating buoys, placed from the fire department boat, are attached by 20-foot chains to 5-gallon buckets of concrete that will anchor them to the river bottom year-round, Jones said.

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