2017-04-22 / Editorials & Letters

Walnut Township Trustees take the drainage issue to the Army Corps of Engineers

April 19, 2017
Ms. Nicole Marisavljevic:
United States Army Corps of Engineers - Huntington District
502 Eighth Street
Huntington, West Virginia 25701-2070.
Re: Buckeye Lake Dam CELRH-RD-N (Public Notice No. LRH-2013-257-MUS Buckeye Lake)

Dear Ms. Marisavljevic:

In response, to the March 31, 2017 Public Notice, we would like to address some very serious, life safety, health, welfare, economic and property loss concerns that will result if storm water along the 4.1 mile stretch of dam is redirected to the back side of the dam. These concerns became apparent to us after a late March 3, 2017 surprise announcement by ODNR that all, storm water outlets, with two exceptions, going into the lake would be capped, starting this July. Further, these outlets must then be redirected to the back side of the dam where there are no current provisions to drain this additional storm water.

ODNR has put the burden of removing this extraordinary amount of storm water to the residents and local governments of Walnut Township, Fairfield County, Licking County and the Village of Buckeye Lake within a five-month time span! Our local officials have worked painstakingly to locate sources of funding for this extremely expensive project that will certainly cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, to no avail. Even if a funding source could be found, a fully designed and implemented storm water conveyance system would be well over a year and a half away considering concepts, public comment, design, bidding and construction.

ODNR is aware of the dire consequences of directing this storm water in the direction of the low-lying areas at the back side of the dam. During a 2003, public comment period on the future dam rebuild, ODNR responded to the public on May 28, 2003 that they were well aware of the flood hazards of directing water to the back side of the dam. At that time, ODNR was taking the responsibility for all storm water removal systems and planned to direct the storm water back into the lake. We believe today, as did ODNR in 2003, that to add storm water at the back side of the dam is NOT in the public interest! Unless of course, a means for its removal is provided before those outlet drains are capped.

While the negative consequences of an imminent flood are quite numerous, we trust that ODNR and the Army Corps of Engineers will conduct a loss analysis to gain a complete understanding of what the cost will be in lives, injuries, economic, health, economic, property and crop damage when a flood occurs.

We would also implore you to consult with FEMA to review the impact on the flood plain map for this area, as it will certainly change as a result of an influx of additional storm water.

The following is only a partial list of the devastating consequences of a flood:

1) Sanitary sewer system risk - The Licking County Sanitary Sewer District serves all residents in the Buckeye Lake region including all areas susceptible to flooding between the dam and areas to the west and many more properties to the north, including the Village of Buckeye Lake. We also highly encourage you seek out a complete and thorough review and analysis from the Ohio EPA as it relates to flood water infiltration into the sanitary system through underground piping, manholes and the hundreds of residential lift stations and sewage inlet “sewer balls” that may not have been designed to withstand the additional water pressure that flood water would place on the underground system and since this sewer balls are hollow, the risk of floating would certainly be a risk consideration.

2) Fire/EMS and the health and safety of the public from the flooding of roads - Not only will all of our Township Roads west of and north of the dam be flooded, there are two (2) major roads that will be severely impacted. One is Millersport Rd. to the west of the dam. When Millersport Rd. is flooded, it will prohibit the Millersport Fire/EMS Department who serves this area from reaching all west bank residents and most if not all of the north bank and northern neighborhoods. Millersport F.D. also serves as a mutual aid responder to the Village of Buckeye Lake and would be cut off from our responsibility to assist them when the need arises, as it does several times a week.

3) Critical Interstate highway I-70 will be at risk for additional flooding - S.R. 360 will also be highly susceptible to flooding as well as Interstate I-70, which of course is a critical link in the interstate freeway system. Both of these highways have a history of flooding already and additional storm water will only compound a very serious problem that already exists. We believe that it is also imperative the Ohio Department of Transportation also review this application if they have not already done so.

4) Ed Parish Pump - The Ed Parish farm is responsible by court order, to pump surface water from over 200 acres of prime farm land into Buckeye Lake to ensure Millersport Rd. is not flooded and to protect the crops. The court order adds just another piece of complexity to the project that will need to be resolved one way or another.

5) Mosquitos - It may seem like a small thing, however additional standing water from even moderate rainfall events will create pools for the breeding of mosquitos and their resultant and often deadly diseases they carry, such as West Nile and the Zika virus just to name two.

As an alternate to capping the drains, we strongly believe that ODNR should consider exploring the possibility of allowing the water discharge systems to take a path along the surface of the dam. In this way, an expensive and time consuming alternate storm water removal infrastructure system can be avoided. One method to achieve this would be to utilize a polymer concrete or fiberglass trench drain system, such as manufactured by ACO Drain, for all residential properties. This product with integral surface grating is encased in concrete and since they are exposed on the surface, could be easily monitored and maintained. We believe the simplest approach would be to use one trench drain system per residence, since the homeowner’s current drainage system could easily adapt to this concept. Using one trench drain system for several homes as some may suggest, would add complexity to what would certainly seem to be a simple solution otherwise. Another possible solution would be to utilize schedule 40 stainless steel, concrete encased drain piping just below grade to convey the storm water. These pipes could also be sleeved in an additional stainless steel pipe where the pipe passes through the new dam structure.

There are three (3) exceptions to this basic simple solution. One, is the Ed Parish farm on the west side as noted previously. Two, is a Ballards Lane, West Bank subdivision that collects water from several homes and pumps that water into the lake. A third pump system, takes water from approximately 40 West Bank Home Owners Association homes and pumps that water into the lake. A creative engineered solution similar to the concept above for individual homes would be equally effective in eliminating the need for an expensive storm water conveying system on the back side of the dam.

We appreciate the opportunity to be heard during this comment period and trust that you will help us work through these very serious and difficult issues to protect the lives and property of our residents. The value to human life and safety that will be risked cannot be overstated. Homes, property and crops that will be destroyed and damaged by flooding could be in the millions of dollars.

We simply cannot imagine a scenario where we see the nightly news reporting on the flooding of homes, roads and property soon after, or even before, the work on this important project has been completed and it comes to light that ODNR and the Army Corps of Engineers was made aware of the seriousness of redirecting storm water into our backyards without an effective means to remove it. We do not want that and we believe that after you and ODNR have reviewed the evidence and completed a thorough analysis, that it will become, as we see it, a crystal-clear decision to make.

We are very thankful that ODNR has seen the necessity and urgency of repairing the dam in order to protect lives and property of our residents. A failure of the dam would certainly be catastrophic and of epic proportions! A completely finished and safe Buckeye Lake Dam and the resultant full Buckeye Lake will bring life and vitality back to the region once more, and for that, we are truly very thankful! We are just asking that during this process that another problem is not created that could otherwise be prevented by careful design and planning.

In conclusion, we appeal to you, to meet with all stakeholders to work on a solution to this serious design concern.

We would like to meet with representatives with your office, ODNR, ODNR’s Engineer, County Engineer’s, County Soil and Water, County EMA and local governments to see how we can work together to resolve these concerns.

Lastly, our residents want to be able to hear from you and have their concerns heard and questions answered in a public setting. Sometimes it is easy to forget that the little guy just wants to know he/she have been heard and they can get answers to their questions from the decision makers directly.

Thank you for your consideration in these matters. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need additional information.

For Walnut Township and the entire Buckeye Lake Region,

Terry W. Horn
Douglas G. Leith
William R. Yates

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