Advocate reporter Kent Mallet misrepresented comments at an April 8 Licking County Commissioners’ meeting in his story “More warning, faster work sought for Buckeye Lake Dam.”
Mallet claimed that property owners were seeking an accelerated construction timetable on building a new dam “because of fear the existing structure will fail.” I attended that meeting to hear the update from ODNR spokesman John Wisse. I listened to every question and comment; and took detailed notes.
The topic of fast tracking the project was a repeated theme throughout the meeting. However, the reasoning behind accelerating the construction time frame was a plea to avoid economic devastation for our marinas and other businesses.
There was also a lot of discussion related to the current process of lowering the lake. Furthermore, there was a lot of disagreement about what constitutes “winter pool” water levels. The point is the lake is currently lower than normal for this time of year and it will continue to get lower. Thus, any risk of failure at current level in reality is pretty much non-existent.
Mallet’s story is just one of many examples of poor reporting on this subject. As the owners of Fisher’s Marina commented at this very meeting, “We’ve gotten a lot of bad press and exaggeration…. more bad than good.”
Mallet’s not alone in exaggerating this issue and misstating our concerns. From the governor on down, state officials have made irresponsible statements that have created unnecessary fear and panic. The Dispatch and local television stations have helped ODNR stoke the crisis. Sensational headlines sell papers and build television ratings.
Obviously, we all care about the safety of our community and it is our number one priority. However, creating fear and panic by overstating the threat is irresponsible and has its own health consequences. The loss of jobs, businesses and property values also have significant health consequences. The dam has not changed materially in the last 20 years so it’s difficult to understand why public safety just recently became a major concern.