Buckeye Lake: An Update on the Dam Construction

There has been no shortage of news from Buckeye Lake in the last year. After a report released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stated that the “likelihood of dam failure is high,” due in large part to damage from the more than 370 homes built directly on the structure, Buckeye Lake has taken center stage in lake news coming out of Ohio. It’s been roughly a year since the initial report was released, so where does the dam stand today?

Phase 1

The first phase of what is expected to be a $100 million-plus project began in January, with crews bringing in gravel and other embankment material to start work on the stability berm. The construction of the new dam is scheduled to be completed by 2019, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has said that the lake’s water levels might not rise until that point in time. That being said, ODNR is committed to raising the water levels before the dam’s completion as long as it is safe to do so. State officials are hopeful the expedited construction schedule will allow the lake to be filled a near-normal summer depth by June 1 to allow boating to resume.

Dam Financing

The dam’s construction is being spearheaded by project manager Bob Kline of Gannet Fleming. Kline has worked on 85 unique dam projects worth a combined $500 million. The cost of the Buckeye Lake Dam Improvement Project is an estimated $100-$150 million. The recently signed state budget provides $25 million. It’s fantastic news for the project as the funds will alleviate concerns about interim risk reduction measures.

When Will the Dam’s Construction Begin?

The actual construction of the Buckeye Lake Dam Improvement Project is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2017. A stability berm will be installed in the next year and a half so it can extend a minimum of 30 feet from the existing dam. Its presence will provide much-needed support and also function as a barrier that prevents water seepage. The specifics of the dam’s design are still being determined. However, the ODNR favors a soil mixing design that requires a stirring of concrete into the material on the lake’s bottom in order to erect columns to preserve the structure’s integrity. The next year and a half will also be used to place a six-foot tall fence along the dam on the state property line to comply with safety standards. This fence will not be placed on private property. Rather, it will be situated on the water portion of the sidewalk that stretches across the dam’s 4.1-mile length.

State officials are hopeful the expedited construction will allow the lake to be filled to near-summer depth by June 1, 2016.

Other Possible Changes

Local leaders are also finishing up a proposal for $5 million from the state’s two-year capital budget for other dam improvements that will boost tourism. These funds will be used to improve streets along Buckeye Lake and the Millersport village as they are the primary routes for lake access. Regional leaders also plan to restore a portion of Millersport’s Ohio-Erie Canal, increase the number of parking spaces, add a fishing pier, create a lakeside park within Perry County and create a bike path that connects Millersport to Hebron.

The Major Overhaul We’ve All Been Waiting For

The existing Buckeye Lake Dam is still formidable, and the pending overhaul is necessary for posterity’s sake. It’s a considerable investment that will undoubtedly pay off over time. It is even possible that the lake’s water level will slightly rise by this time in 2017. The fact that water will be allowed back into the lake sooner rather than later is fantastic news for area residents, lakefront homeowners as well as business owners, considering that the lake was void of boats (and their accompanying revenue) this past summer. In the end, the new and improved Buckeye Lake Dam will provide a much safer and more enjoyable lake.

Posted by Chris Mosier – The Lake Team

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