2015-08-29 / News

Hundreds turn out for ODNR dam update

By Charles Prince


Gannett Fleming Project Manager Bob Kline discusses design concepts for the replacement of the Buckeye Lake Dam Wednesday evening at the Millersport Elementary School auditorium. Beacon photo by Charles Prince. Gannett Fleming Project Manager Bob Kline discusses design concepts for the replacement of the Buckeye Lake Dam Wednesday evening at the Millersport Elementary School auditorium. Beacon photo by Charles Prince. MILLERSPORT – More than 400 lakefront residents packed the Millersport Elementary School auditorium Wednesday evening for ODNR’s first open house about the Buckeye Lake dam this year.

ODNR senior policy advisor Mark Anthony outlined two missions for the meeting. He said ODNR wants to provide residents with the information known now and to get feedback from residents. “We want to be candid with you,” he explained. “You can be part of the planning.”

Many residents left the 90-minute presentation disappointed. Residents living along the 4.5- mile long dam learned that soon a six-foot high chain link fence will be erected on the lake-side of the sidewalk that runs on top of most the dam. In areas without the sidewalk, the fence will be placed on the state-side of the property boundary.


ODNR Deputy Director Gary Obermiller, second from left, discusses dock issues after the open house with Buckeye Lake Area Civic Association President Ron Craig, left, Fairfield County Commissioner and Buckeye Lake Marina owner Dave Levacy, second from right, and West Bank resident Kreig Babbert. Beacon photo by Charles Prince. ODNR Deputy Director Gary Obermiller, second from left, discusses dock issues after the open house with Buckeye Lake Area Civic Association President Ron Craig, left, Fairfield County Commissioner and Buckeye Lake Marina owner Dave Levacy, second from right, and West Bank resident Kreig Babbert. Beacon photo by Charles Prince. The fence will remain in place until construction of the new dam is completed which is currently estimated to be the spring of 2019. The fence was justified as an OSHA requirement and is designed so people can’t climb over it.

Dam neighbors were also disappointed that ODNR is still unable to answer basic questions about their docks. It’s been known for some time that all docks along the dam will have to be removed before any construction can begin. The key question is who will be responsible for their removal and who will pay for it.

“Instructions will be delivered soon,” Anthony promised. Letters will be mailed to all dam front property owners. “It is still being finalized and will come out soon.”

ODNR Deputy Director Gary Obermiller told The Beacon after the meeting that he hopes the letters go out before the end of this week. With summer about over, some residents will soon be heading south and are concerned about the possibility of receiving a notice from ODNR requiring them to remove their dock and other improvements after they have left the area. Obermiller said he understood their concern.

Lakefront residents in general seemed disappointed that water levels won’t return to recreational levels any sooner than spring 2017. ODNR Chief of Projects Steve Berezansky said, “We have a lot of hurdles to get over (before raising water levels).” The interim risk reduction measures must be completed before water levels will be increased. That means the 30- foot wide stability berm must be completed along with at least one seepage barrier. Those measures are projected to be completed by spring 2017.

Berezanky introduced Gannett Fleming Project Manager Bob Kline P.E. He has 29+ years experience and has worked as a project manager for 22+ years. Kline has been involved in 85 dam projects ranging from 10-320 feet tall.

“They’ve (Gannett Fleming) got some experience,” Berezansky added, including 20 dam projects in Ohio. He said the firm is ranked 11th nationally.

Kline said the Buckeye Lake project is a “very complex, very large project.” Nine other consultants are part of the project team, he said. The primary objective is to make the dam safer and meet dam safety standards. “What can we do to enhance the facility?” he asked. “We encourage your collaboration.”

Kline said the project team has started with document reviews going back to the Phase 1 Inspection Report prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1978.

Residents jeered when he claimed that many dam front residents have needed sump pumps to handle seepage through the dam at higher water levels. Shouts of “no” and “never” rang out.

Construction of “at least a 30-foot wide” stability berm is the first step. It will provide a working platform and lengthen the seepage path. The berm will slope much further than 30 feet into the lake. The new berm will be lower than the existing dam to allow downspouts etc. to still drain into the lake.

Kline briefly described three design concepts for the replacement dam:

• Single-row steel sheet pile;

• Double-row steel sheet pile; and

• Soilcrete Structure which is considered the preferred design concept.

Some of the stability berm won’t be needed after the new dam is built and it will be removed. Right now the plan is to dump the berm material directly into the water in front of the dam. Kline said rock might have to be dumped first where the water is deeper. A silt curtain will be used to keep the dump material from being washed away.

Three access points are planned:

• Lieb’s Island boat launching area;

• Extending the road to now demolished Smitty’s Tavern; and

• North Shore boat ramp.

Both sides of the Lieb’s Island boat ramps and parking areas will be used for staging. “Public access will be curtailed for some period of time,” Kline said. The North Shore ramp area will be shared. The largest and western-most parking lot will be taken over for construction use. The other two parking lots will still be available for recreation use and the boat ramps will remain open.

Obermiller said dredging will continue. Last year the single dredge assigned to Buckeye Lake removed 85,000 cubic yards of material. That dredge has been trapped all season by the low water levels in the basin behind the park office on Lieb’s Island. Two other dredges are working fairly regularly and have removed 185,000 cubic yards so far this season. Obermiller said ODNR has signed a personal services contract with a local company for another dredge that might be able to get started late this year.

Dredging is being limited by the availability of dredge material relocation areas. Three have been constructed this year. One on private property along the feeder canal is nearly full. Two larger areas were constructed on park property at the Brooks and Fairfield Beach parks.

Obermiller said a laboratory test of a de-watering system for dredge material was successful. It eliminates the need to wait two to four years for the material to dewater in an impoundment. The material can be loaded into a truck and hauled away.

ODNR would like to do a one-month trail perhaps yet this year, Obermiller said. Moving the dewatering system in and out would cost about $300,000 with another $137,000 per month for rent. The immediate holdup is the required three phase, 480 volt electric service which will be costly to get on the lake. Obermiller said a generator option is being explored.

“The long term plan is to do whole lake dredging,” he said. Right now they have dredged a 35-foot wide channel four feet deep from Lieb’s Island to deeper water off North Bank.

Whole lake dredging will provide a deeper lake and hopefully a healthier lake by getting rid of the phosphorus laden sediment that feeds harmful algae blooms. “It benefits the lake for the future,” Obermiller explained.

Requests for Qualifications for the project’s Construction Manager at Risk were due August 20. ODNR spokespeson Bethany McCorkle was unable Wednesday evening to say how many firms responded to the solicitation.

Berezansky said the construction manager should be selected by the end of October. Kline said the contractor will help Gannett Fleming with the design. Work should start late fall, early winter with the initial focus on the staging areas, access roads, removal of obstructions and putting up the fence. Design of the new dam will extend into early 2017. Its construction is currently projected to take a bit over two years pushing completion to the spring of 2019.

Trees on the dam that are dead, dying or a threat to dam safety or construction workers will be removed. Obermiller told lakefront resident not to worry about weeds and saplings that are now growing out of the mud. He said the first frost will kill the weeds. “We will spray trees if they are taking hold on State property,” he pledged. “That’s our responsibility.”

The meeting included a 30+ minute question and answer session that was marred by a faulty microphone.

Both Tim Ryan and Tim Figgins of the Buckeye Lake Region Chamber of Commerce asked why the PMF (probable maximum flood) issue hasn’t been discussed. “Spillway capacity is inadequate,” Kline agreed. Both spillways will be evaluated and Seller’s might be modified. George O’Donnell suggested reopening the canal link on the east end to Jonathan Creek which would increase spillway capacity and get that water into another watershed. Kline wasn’t familiar with Jonathan Creek but promised to look at it.

Anthony thought the next open house would be in December.

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