A stream-cleaning team is quietly doing work that probably saves lives

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BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio (WTRF) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t allow creek dredging due to environmental concerns. So this group of workers, employed by a temporary grant, are hand-cleaning all the debris that would otherwise build up and cause a flood.

Cleaning out the creeks is a life-giving service in a flood prone area.

“If it wasn’t for this program and these guys doing this job, this stuff wouldn’t get done,” said Melissa Mackey, Belmont County Flood Coordinator.

The grant provides jobs to people out of work. And the job they do is vital. Debris in creeks is a flood waiting to happen.

“With our constant erosion, we don’t want another Shadyside,” said Dave Horne, Pease Township trustee. “Nobody wants that.”

They find trees and tires, toys and clothes.

“We find washers and dryers,” Mackey noted. “We have found parts of cars and lots of plastic stuff. People don’t realize when they’re throwing stuff in there, they’re getting rid of it but they’re making a problem for someone else.”

The grant is federally funded, through the state and down to the counties and townships.

“Because honestly, we don’t have the manpower to do what these guys are doing,” Horne said.

They soon become a tight-knit team.

“It’s a work family,” said Mackey. “And it’s dangerous work that we do, so you have to trust everybody you work with.”

There’s another plus. The trees they take out of the creek don’t go to waste.

“We bring them up and cut them up for firewood for people who can’t afford firewood,” said Gus Harris, employed by the grant.

They all agreed on one thing.

“It’s a temporary grant, but I don’t understand why they don’t make it permanent,” said Harris.
“It helps everybody out,” added Horne. “And God forbid if something happens again and we get a creek blocked up. This gives us security.”

The workers are employed through the Department of Job & Family Services’ “Connections” office in Martins Ferry. They do not need experience in the field. They just need to be out of work for three months to be eligible.

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