The State of Ohio began this campaign last year.
First, they raised the water level in the lake by 6” to 892.2, the height of the Sellars Point Spillway. Most of us were very happy to have the extra water in the lake, but had no idea what was really going on. Was this action taken by the State to place as much steady long term extra pressure on the dam as possible?
Then last summer, we noticed all of the large Evacuation Signs that were put up all over the area.
Then the Army Corp of Engineers was brought in to “conduct an assessment” and to make recommendations for the repair and maintenance of the dam.
On March 1st, the State left the spillway gate open while waiting for a report from the Corp. A report they had seen, in draft form, 2 months earlier.
For the past two weeks, they have been conducting a campaign with the media and elected officials to emphasize the danger that exists and the catastrophic impact that will occur should the dam collapse.
We have been had!
The Army Corp report primarily focuses on past studies and problems that existed with the dam prior to the construction of the Sellars Point Spillway, which was designed to take pressure off the dam and prevent overtopping. The only problems since 1992 were caused by the failure of the State to include in that project, a proper method to get rid of the water that flowed over the spillway, resulting in flooding behind the dam, not through the dam from the lake.
There are many ways to correct problems with the dam, both temporary and permanent. None, however, have yet been considered or discussed during this entire process that has taken place over the past year. Instead, the State has wasted precious time, preparing for their disaster announcements – Time that could have been used to correct any deficiencies that may exist.
In 2004, the State presented a plan to build a new dam, 20 feet in front of the current dam. There were many parts of their plan that were unacceptable to the community and attempts to work with the State to improve the plan were unsuccessful. The State knew best and were unwilling to listen to other ideas.
It seems like De Ja Vue all over again.
The Buckeye Lake dam became an unacceptable and unsafe embankment in 1895, when the State of Ohio sold the first section of the dam and allowed structures to be constructed on it. That action, 120 years ago, has given heartburn to dam engineers since and caused them to declare our lake unsafe.
We must support our local leadership as they attempt to work with the State to reduce the level of hysteria that has been created through their latest campaign. We also need to accept the fact that some change has to be made to bring our dam up to today’s standards of safety.
There is plenty of room for compromise on everyone’s part. It is not only possible, but necessary to maintain a level of water in the lake to permit our local economy to prosper while at the same time taking the actions necessary to improve the dam.
Working together, we can make this happen.
Editor’s Note: Bartholow presented an abbreviated version of these comments at the March 17 Fairfield County Commissioners’ meeting. Bartholow is a former president of the Buckeye Lake Area Civic Association and a co-founder of Buckeye Lake for Tomorrow.