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State Sets Construction, Dock Rules at Ohio’s Buckeye Lake

Federal officials have warned a deteriorating dam’s failure could put thousands of lives at risk.

Fri April 24, 2015 - Midwest Edition
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BUCKEYE LAKE, Ohio (AP) The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has set new construction and dock usage policies at central Ohio’s Buckeye Lake, where federal officials have warned a deteriorating dam’s failure could put thousands of lives at risk.

The department wrote in a letter sent to Buckeye Lake residents that no new docks, boatlifts or other equipment will be permitted on the earthen dam without express approval. Additionally, new construction of homes, patios, pools and sidewalks won’t be allowed without a proper permit, The Advocate in Newark reported.

A recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report concluded there’s a high risk of failure at the 4.1-mi. (6.6 km) earthen dam at Buckeye Lake, about 30 mi. (48.28 km) east of Columbus. Gov. John Kasich has said that Ohio will replace the dam. In the meantime, the lake is being kept at winter levels of about 3 ft. (.9 m), roughly half the typical summer depth.

The construction and dock restrictions are intended to protect the dam’s remaining structural integrity and prevent additional erosion, according to the letter signed by Gary Obermiller, ODNR chief of parks and recreation.

With the water levels low, ODNR said state-owned docks at Buckeye Lake won’t be available to residents this year. Residents with existing docks that aren’t located on the dam will still be allowed to use them.

The Buckeye Lake Region Chamber of Commerce has hired a Pittsburgh firm to perform its own independent study of the dam. Chamber leaders have said they hope a second opinion will nudge the state to replace the dam faster, with less damage to local businesses.

In the letter to residents, Obermiller said ODNR knows many concerned citizens will have questions about the path ahead.

“ODNR will take every reasonable measure available to safeguard the dam, protect public safety and minimize adverse impacts while the dam is being replaced,” he wrote.

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