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Long drought for Meander Dam project

State gives $500K to MVSD dam project

Staff photo / Renee Fox Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik said the state will provide $500,000 of a $40 million project to update the dam and other infrastructure at the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, which supplies water from the Meander Reservoir to several communities.

The Mahoning Valley Sanitary District is receiving $500,000 from the state for a $40 million project to upgrade the 3,500-foot earthen dam at Meander Reservoir. If other funding sources are secured in time, a longtime project in the making could start around November 2022, said Chief Engineer Michael D. McNich.

Planning for the massive project started in 2014, and designs were completed in 2020, said Tom Holloway, operator of record at the Meander Water Treatment Plant and former chief engineer.

Holloway said there are concerns the dam can’t handle a critical rain event, which is 19 inches in 24 hours.

Holloway said the curb on the dam will be raised. At the height it is at now, the dam, built in 1926, could wash out and fail, sending water overflowing the creeks and land around it, Holloway said.

“Age has taken a toll on it,” Holloway said.

The project will construct a new auxiliary spillway and install anchors into the dam foundation, flatten downstream embankments, upgrade dam-related instrumentation, electric service and lighting, and replace east and west dam access roads.

The grant from the state was announced Tuesday at the treatment plant by Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development. She, Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced $93 million of water infrastructure grants for 54 projects in 60 counties under the Ohio BUILDS initiative.

The remainder of the water infrastructure grants will be awarded in the coming weeks and will impact communities in every county in Ohio, according to the governor’s office.

“These grants are about strengthening our future, our people, and our communities,” DeWine said. “We want our kids and grandkids to stay in Ohio, and clean water is essential to the health and future of our state. Protecting and ensuring that every community in Ohio has access to safe and clean water has been our mission from the start, and with these grants, we are continuing our mission to provide access to economic development tools that will help communities grow and thrive well into the future.”

Mihalik said the state feels it has a “moral obligation” to support clean drinking-water initiatives and the state is willing to shoulder a portion of the responsibility.

McNich said the MVSD is applying for funds through FEMA to help with the project. If the application, which has been submitted to the state for review before submission, is approved, it could offer about $30 million for the cost of the project.

Each year the project is not completed, its price tag goes up by about $1 million because of inflation, McNich said.

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said the project will help secure clean drinking water in the Mahoning Valley, as the threat from climate change looms. He said it is a “legacy” project.

Germaine Bennett, director of the MVSD board, said the board is making every attempt to avoid passing on the cost of the project to water customers.

The MVSD has three member communities — Youngstown, Niles and McDonald — and provides water to about 220,000 people in seven municipalities and portions of 10 townships in the Valley.

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