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Canal residents want to dredge up the past

THORNPORT – People who live along the canal south of Honey Creek Road haven’t seen a dredge since the 1960sand they probably won’t anytime soon. But, they may not really need to.

State Senator Tim Schaffer arranged a public meeting June 18 at Thornport’s AMVETS Post 51 with Ohio Department of Natural Resources representatives to discuss dredging the Thornport channel south of County Road 79. A Honey Creek Road bridge was removed to accommodate a dredge, which is clearing the canal north of the road. Residents who live along the canal south of Honey Creek Road are wondering why their section of the canal is not being dredged. They say there is so much sediment in the canal that they can’t pass their boats beneath the CR 79 bridge crossing the canal. Why are they paying dock fees, they ask, when they can’t pilot their boats?

ODNR representatives explained that the dredge is in high demand throughout the state and it’s incredibly expensive to operate. It has a tight priority list of jobs and, frankly, the canal south of CR 79 isn’t high on the list.

However, Perry County Engineer Kent Cannon had a possible solution. He said the CR 79 bridge is due to be replaced soon. A win, win option for everyone may be simply not to replace it – remove the old bridge and leave the space open for boat traffic. He said the bridge usually has little traffic because it’s very close to the Honey Creek Road bridge. Without the CR 79 bridge, boaters could pass through the channel and the county would save the expense of replacing it.

Nothing was decided at the meeting, and if residents want to remove the bridge, they need to circulate a petition and send it to the Thorn Township Trustees, who will deliver it to the county.

Resident Ron Baker said early in the meeting that he’s concerned not dredging the canal is diminishing his property values because boats can’t pass beneath the bridge and there are health concerns associated with stagnant water and mosquitoes. He suggested removal of the CR 79 bridge.

Bush Tavern owner Rusty Payne agreed, saying he can’t even bring a boat to his own property. Frank Correll, owner of the Toy Store – which specializes in sport vehicles like personal watercraft and ATVs – said he has an employee devoted to shuttling watercraft for launch at FairfieldBeach because he can’t use the nearby canal.

Several residents living near the canal commented they favored removing the bridge.

“I have no problem with taking the bridge out and leaving it out,” said Cannon. His only concern is he doesn’t want someone to petition the county to put it back once it’s removed.

ODNR Parks Chief Dan West explained that dredging boils down to “funding and priorities.” The state only budgets $3.7 million for Ohio dredging, period. There are more than 100 Ohio water channels. Since 1997, the state has allocated $29,000 less per year for dredging. “The point is, we have a limited amount of cash,” he said.

In so many words, West said it would be a long time before the state would dredge south of CR 79, if ever. He said he couldn’t guarantee a dredge, even if the bridge were removed. It would cost residents about $500,000 to dredge it themselves.

Ohio Representative Dan Dodd said the canal would still have sediment issues without dredging, but removing the bridge would solve many problems.

Buckeye Lake Area Civic Association President Merv Bartholow said that if the canal in question were dredged, some residents want an island built from previously dredged mud to be removed as well. As the island deteriorates, it only adds to the sediment in the canal.

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