Preparing To Prepare
MILLERSPORT– People expecting a lively debate about the future of Buckeye Lake’s dam may have been disappointed during ODNR’s public forums Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. “There is no project for replacement of the dam,” said John Wisse, of the ODNR Office of Communications. “This is a community forum to discuss the ongoing dam assessment.”
ODN R held t wo ide nt ical community open house forums, one at Millersport High School Tuesday night and another at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Buckeye Lake Village Wednesday night, to update the community on the progress of an assessment the US Army Corps of engineers is conducting on the Buckeye Lake dam. The assessment is expected to be complete early next year.
ODNR representatives were clear that the reason for the assessment is not to induce panic or create concern about the dam’s immediate safety, but there are several long-term concerns about the dam, which will need to be addressed in the future.
According to the ODNR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is under contract to ODNR to conduct an independent, third-party assessment of Buckeye Lake Dam. The final assessment will serve as a foundation for continued discussions between ODNR and community interests, including risk reduction planning. ODNR understands there are several unresolved issues regarding this dam (the future disposition of private docks, for example). ODNR will continue to make time to seek residents’ input and work through these issues with the community in an open and transparent process before any final decisions are made.
ODNR currently does not have a construction repair plan for this structure. ODNR staff members continue to conduct daily inspections of the dam and educate area homeowners concerning dam safety and best management practices. Other risk reduction measures are in place and include removal of selected trees from the dam crest, clearing of the Sellers Point spillway outlet channel and other routine maintenance.
The dam itself was constructed as an earthen embankment from 1825 to 1832 and measures approximately 4.1 miles long. If fact, it is completely unique in North America because of its type, long length, advanced age, and material make-up.
The dam is a state-owned structure that ODNR is responsible for operating and maintaining in accordance with state dam safety regulations and industry best management practices.
The lake surface area at the top of the dam is 3,030 acres in size and at the principal spillway level is 2,800 acres in size. Lake storage capacity is more than 4.5 billion gallons of water.
Buckeye Lake Dam is designated as a Class I high-hazard potential dam. A high-hazard potential dam classification signifies the general adverse consequences to lives and property that would occur in the event of a catastrophic dam failure and does not describe the dam’s condition.
Improvements to the dam are needed for it to meet state dam safety standards; those improvements are yet to be determined. Some examples of the dam’s deficiencies are excessive long-term seepage through and deterioration of the earthen embankment, multiple excavations in the downstream slope, and the inability of safety inspectors to examine areas of the dam hidden by structures.
The risk-reduction project work described below is designed to help ensure the safety of those living on, around, and downstream of the dam, to safeguard the future of Buckeye Lake and to allow ODNR to meet its legal and other obligations to the lake community:
• In 2014, ODNR entered into agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide an assessment of the existing conditions of Buckeye Lake Dam. Along with this assessment, the Corps of Engineers will make recommendations to ODNR for the dam’s repair, design, maintenance and operation. The assessment and final report will be completed by early 2015.
• Ohio’s capital appropriations for Fiscal Years 2015-16 (beginning July 1, 2014) were approved in 2014. Among these new appropriations is $4 million allocated to the Buckeye Lake Dam. These capital projects funds will be used for needed preparatory work, including land surveying, dam core soil tests, engineering design and water quality mitigation; this prep work is required regardless of the scope or design of any future dam risk reduction project. These funds are not for actual construction costs.
• In 2013-2014, ODNR improved its readiness capability to respond to a dam emergency and coordinate emergency response actions and notifications in partnership with local and state emergency responders. This reflects a continuous effort by ODNR to plan, train, exercise and evaluate its readiness capabilities.