The Army Corps of Engineers has approved a permit for the Cafaro Company to build Enterprise Park on wetlands in Howland Township.

The project, which would include a new Mercy Health Hospital, would be built on nearly 16 acres of wetlands next to the Eastwood Mall. According to the permit, work can't begin until detailed drawings, and plans for each facility are submitted to the Corps.

While environmentalists are opposed to the project and have been voicing their concerns for months, the Corps determined that detrimental effects would be minimal and temporary, and the beneficial effects would be more than minimal and permanent.

Friends of the Mahoning River Board issued this statement:

"After seeking legal counsel interpretation, we understand that the 404 permit recently issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers for the Enterprise Park Project in Howland Township is approved only for a new hospital building at this time. After talking with the Army Corps, they strongly indicate that they have assurances on file that Mercy Health does plan to build a new hospital at Enterprise Park, regardless of the strong public opposition. The remainder of the buildings proposed in the application will be reviewed and approved on a case by case basis after the hospital is built. Therefore, we believe that if no hospital ends up being built there, no further development will occur."

"The coalition represented at the educational meeting feels that if the entire community, including the permitting agencies and politicians who support this development, had been able to hear the presentations of scientists, wetland experts and community leaders at the public educational meeting held last week regarding the huge consequences of Enterprise Park, the proposal would never go forward. With no net increase in hospital jobs foreseeable, continuing population declines, the negative impacts to our air, water, migratory birds, wildlife, flooding issues, and social justice concerns, going forward with this proposal is just unacceptable."

"Therefore, depending on the final outcome and clarification on Mercy Health's plans, the coalition of concerned citizens of the Mahoning Valley may consider filing a complaint in federal court against the US Army Corps of Engineers under the Administrative Procedures Act stating their issuance of the 404 permit was arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the law."

Joe Bell, a spokesman for the Cafaro Company, has said while wetlands will be destroyed, credits will actually get purchased to build double the wetlands in another location.

The permit states that the time limit for completing the work authorized ends on December 31, 2022. A request for an extension will have to be submitted to continue development.