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Falls seeks funds for dam repairs

NEWTON FALLS — Village council has approved adding the Low Head Dam and the West Branch Channel Dam to territories included in the adjacent village parks, which will help officials in seeking funds for dam repairs.

Council voted 5-0 on Wednesday to approve the motion after having a public hearing in which no residents spoke on the matter.

Second Ward Councilman John Baryak said the Low Head Dam is near Commerce Park and if something were to happen to the dam that lowered the water level, it could cause the village to have problems getting water.

Councilwoman-at-Large Julie Stimpert said making the dams’ territories of the nearby parks will help hasten the process of getting grants to help with two recommended repair projects. The dams are part of the village’s water system and, over the years, have been damaged by erosion, rodents and blocked spillways.

“There is some very serious thousands of pounds of pressure going against some of the holes in the dam that could eventually blow out. We are going to have to do something. These are problems that should have been take care of before, but we will take care of them now,” Baryak said.

He said prior to September, the dams were last reviewed during a safety inspection in spring 2016. If the dams are removed, it will affect the water levels in the village.

In a letter from Mia Kannik, program manager for the dam safety program of the Division of Water Resources, sent to City Manager Pam Priddy, she explains the Division of Water Resources is required to inspect jurisdictional dams every five years.

The letter states that an inspection done in September 2021 and one done in 2016 showed maintenance issues, including improper vegetation on the dams, rodent damage, erosion, vehicle ruts, and clogged or partially blocked spillways. The common maintenance issues can be addressed by a contractor, the letter states.

The village can monitor the concrete walkway for any cracking or settling as well as needed repairs or modifying of spillway pipes. Kannik said the village may qualify for a reduced interest loan to make required repairs through the Dam Safety Loan Program administered through the Ohio Water Development Authority.

Council members said they would like to make the dam repairs as soon as possible.

The Low Head Dam is a 100-foot long, 17-foot high concrete dam built on the east branch Mahoning River in 1908 for the purpose of water supply. The West Branch Channel Dam is a 175-foot long, 16-foot high gravity dam built on the Mahoning River’s west branch for water supply.

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