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Analysis: Phase II construction off to a slow start

BUCKEYE LAKE – It’s now been 11 months and counting since Phase 1 construction wrapped up last year. There has been very little activity at all since the soil-mixed seepage barrier was completed late last May.

Dam neighbors, used to nearly six months of 20 hour work days, six to seven days per week December through May, suddenly had to adjust to quiet. The work interruption, during the best time for construction, was necessary, according to ODNR, to give engineers time to design Phase II.

The original Phase II was to construct a soil-mixed buttress wall behind the seepage barrier. provide some type of armoring over the new dam to protect it in case of overtopping and remove the approximately 15 feet of berm on the lakeside of the seepage barrier.

Some changes were made to the Phase II design and announced at the March 8 & 9 Listening Sessions at Lakewood High School and Millersport Elementary School. The most significant will retain the entire 30-35 foot wide stability berm while adding a heavier grade of rip rap to protect the shoreline from erosion.

The State Controlling Board released funds March 13, 2017 totalling nearly $25 million for Phase II work. ASI Constructors, Inc. will continue to serve as the Construction Manager at Risk.

More than $17 million is earmarked for the soil-mixed buttress wall. Nine subcontractors submitted statements of qualifications to construct the buttress wall. DeWind One-Pass Trenching of Zeeland, Michigan, who operated the faster but much louder chain-saw type soil-mixer during Phase 1 was one of the nine. Raito, who operated two-augar type mixers during Phase I, did not submit qualifications for Phase II.

The Phase II scope includes four soil mixing rigs, each mixing 300 cubic yards per 12 hour shift.

ASI’s contract for Phase II includes an extensive schedule listing early and late start dates and early and late finish dates. According to the schedule, the project is about 27 working days or five and a half weeks behind schedule.

Here are some key dates:

• Notice to Proceed – official notice to subcontractors to begin mobilization of equipment: Early/ Late Start – March 24;

• Finish mobilization for soil-mixing: Early/Late Finish – March 30;

• Finish Soil Mix Test Section: Early/Late Finish – April 24; and

• Muck Displacement or Pushout from Lieb’s Island to Seller’s Point Spillway: Early Start – April 4; Late Start – May 10 and Early Finish – May 1 and Late Finish – June 7.

There are no signs of mobilization or of any work being done. Dam neighbors are beginning to complain about uncut grass on the lake side of the security fence.

It’s so quiet that The Beacon asked project spokesperson Ian Nickey about the slow startup on Monday. Here’s our questions:

• Has the soil mix subcontractor been selected? If yes, who is it?

• If not, what’s responsible for the delay and when is a decision expected?

• We have heard rumors that the preferred subcontractor is too high (exceeds estimate by 10%) or is the high bid. Is that the case?

• Will this subcontract have to be rebid and if so what’s the timing on the rebid?

• Have any of the subcontractor bid packages (such as Muck Pushout; West Bank Pipe Bypass; Onsite Testing Laboratory; Berm Dust Suppression; and Masonry Wall Removal and Sheet Pile Trimming) been awarded? If so, what firms have been awarded subcontracts?

Here’s his complete answer on April 26: “Thanks for reaching out. ODNR is currently working through contracting, once complete subcontractors will be selected.”

Nicky typically addresses rumors and encourages residents to ask him about rumors so he can clear them up. It is probably safe to assume, given his very terse reply, that there are some problems with the soil-mixing subcontract or subcontractor. It is believed that DeWind is the preferred subcontractor. We’ve heard another rumor/explanation since we contacted Nickey on April 24.

It goes like this: DeWind is supposedly building another bigger, faster soil mixer specifically for the Buckeye Lake dam project and that build has encountered significant delays or technical problems. It will remain a rumor for the time being since ODNR forbids subcontractors from talking to the press or really anyone interested in the project.

Given that the contract schedule lists the early and late finishes for substantial completion as July 30, 2018, the current slow or more accurate no start won’t have any major repercussions for lake area residents at this point. Even if substantial completion falls back to the fall 2018, it won’t make much difference to residents. But a delay into winter could make a difference as some of the last projects – establishing turf, constructing the asphalt roadway and replacing the sidewalk are somewhat weather sensitive.

With boaters now being able to use portions of the lake, the biggest issue for residents and businesses is whether ODNR will take any steps now to offset the inevitable evaporation loss. Right now, the lake can get about an inch or so above the interim summer pool before water starts pouring over the stop-logs at the AMIL spillway in Buckeye Lake Village.

That tiny buffer could evaporate in a day or two of 90+ temperatures. Adding two more courses of stop-logs (9 to 10 inches high) would create a meaningful buffer that could extend the boating season into August.

So far concerns about a short boating season due to evaporation have fallen on deaf ears. Earlier is much better this year. The next two months are probably your best chance to enjoy Buckeye Lake on a power boat.

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