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Lake level is already below ‘new winter pool’

Buckeye Lake’s water level is already two inches BELOW ODNR’s new ‘winter pool.’ AMIL spillway neighbors in Buckeye Lake Village report that the stop logs installed May 26 were removed last Thursday, two days before the announced date of Oct. 1. Oct. 1 is 30-45 days earlier than past practice.

The base for the stop logs is at the “new winter pool’ level of 888.50, so water isn’t flowing out the spillway now. A new scale installed at the spillway showed the water level to be two inches below 888.50 on Tuesday. The lake level was slightly above 888.50 when the stop logs were removed.

The quick loss of two inches can be attributed to evaporation and the continuing discharge of water from the fish hatchery canal. If temperatures remain above normal, evaporation could bring the level even lower. With the stop logs removed, the lake won’t stabilize above 888.50 as water will be continuously discharged until it reaches 888.50.

Currently, ODNR intends to stick with past practice and replace the stop logs (close the gate in years past) on March 1. It seems particularly odd that past practice is only followed when it holds down the lake level rather than when it might help the lake reach a level that can support some boating. The loss of a third recreational boating season will be devastating to local businesses and near-term property values. Many of us can’t wait until sometime in 2019.

So far, pleas to keep the stop logs in longer and to return to our typical winter pool have been ignored. ODNR officials don’t even give us the courtesy of listening to our concerns. We can only talk with their hired flacks. At his last public presentation, Ian Nickey dropped his previous pretense of bringing our issues and concerns to ODNR. Now he claims he’ll pass them on to the project engineers. Decisions are made by ODNR, not by the engineers or flacks.

We’ll repeat last month’s plea. We must insist now, with a united voice, that ODNR take steps to ensure that the lake level reaches their ‘interim pool’ of 890.5 by May 1. At a minimum, that plan needs to replace the stop logs by Feb. 1 so we can retain more of the snow/ice melt. We will need considerably more water than in years past to increase the lake level by 24 or more inches to get to the interim summer pool of 890.50. The ‘new winter pool’ has reduced the lake’s surface by hundreds of acres. Those areas are dry and weed infested which will also soak up more water.

Remember, we were only able to reach a measly peak of 7.8 inches above the ‘new winter pool’ after the stop logs were installed on May 26. By the 4th of July, the level had dropped almost six inches BELOW the ‘new winter pool’ and it was barely an inch above that level on Labor Day.

The odds of reaching and then maintaining a level of 890.5 drops considerably if the level remains at 888.50 or lower until March 1. With a 30 foot wide stability berm and a two foot wide and 40-some foot deep seepage barrier now in place, there is no reason to gamble on the loss of another recreational season. Should the lake fill more rapidly than expected in February, our dam tender can slow the buildup or even draw it down if necessary. But our dam tender can’t make it rain more when we need the water to reach pool or offset evaporation.

We’ll say it again. Residents need to urge their county commissioners, mayors and village councils, township trustees, community organizations and homeowners’ associations to engage with ODNR to set an achievable plan to reach 890.50 by May 1. ODNR’s current plan will fall short and we will be the ones hurt again!

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