ODNR Deputy Director Gary Obermiller fielded questions for more than two hours at the April 30 Buckeye Lake Coalition meeting at the Buckeye Lake Winery. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.
FAIRFIELD BEACH – Most residents attending the April 30 Buckeye Lake Coalition meeting at the Buckeye Lake Winery found ODNR Deputy Director Gary Obermiller’s participation refreshing.
He didn’t stray from the party line on the critical issue of when the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) expressed its concerns about failure of the Buckeye Lake dam.
“We didn’t anticipate going into this season with low water levels,” Obermiller said. “It caught us by surprise as well.” Later in the meeting he said, “We didn’t anticipate the winter pool recommendation.”
Some heads nodded when he said, “We don’t have all the answers.” Obermiller candidly said, “we have a whole bunch of lemons here and it is going to be tough to make lemonaide.”
Dredge disposal areas “are a problem for us.” He said the Lieb’s Island disposal area is full. Work is starting on the De- Palma property (see photo below). Obermiller said two state dredges are running and bids might be sought to put a privately owned dredge to work. He didn’t mention the dredge stuck in the basin behind the state park office. Later Obermiller said that dredging won’t be the “silver bullet.”
Site work to create the impoundment for ODNR’s new dredge material disposal site finally got underway in earnest this week. On Monday, three dozers and one loader were building an earthern wall along the south bank of the Feeder Canal to retain about five acres of dredged material while it dewaters. The current disposal site behind the large parking lot across from the Lieb’s Island boat ramps is now full. The new site is just east of the Village of Millersport’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.
The dredging priority is creating channels to and from the boat ramps to open water and then provide channels for fire protection to the islands. He wondered if heavy equipment could be used on the lake bottom.
Winery co-owner and meeting moderator Tracey Higginbotham had opened the meeting, commenting that “this is not what we thought winter pool is.” He asked how its severity could be reduced.
“We are going to stay at winter pool until the dam is replaced,” Obermiller emphasized. He promised “a decent jet boat” for the Millersport Fire Department. A much more usable boat was brought to the lake on Saturday.
An ODNR Watercraft officer checks out a Millersport firefighter on an 18-foot Rock Proof inboard jet boat off the North Shore boat ramp Monday afternoon. The boats are designed for extreme shallow water operation. Low water levels grounded Buckeye Lake’s only in-thewater fire boat several weeks ago, leaving 23 homes on 10 islands and hundreds of boaters without fire protection and rescue services. State Representative Tim Schaffer raised the safety issue with ODNR officials several weeks ago. ODNR originally offered a 16-foot outboard jet boat that Millersport Fire Chief Bob Price said would be useless. It was too small to carry more than two people and had very little room for even basic rescue equipment. Price said after speaking with ODNR Deputy Director Gary Obermiller last week, Watercraft officers brought over the Rock Proof boat from Springfield on Saturday. The inboard is longer and has a much wider beam with room for rescue gear and the department’s smaller water pump. The pump won’t do much for a house fire, but it can handle a boat fire, Price said. He called it a “quick fix,” not a “permanent” one. “We can now get there,” Price said. The boat can run in just six inches of water if it is planing. Price said it struggles when it slows down and starts wallowing in the mud. Price said he appreciates Obermiller’s efforts to get the department a boat they can use. The jet boat will be docked in the basin behind the park office on Lieb’s Island. It is reserved for the department’s use and they will have 24/7 access to it. The department’s fire boat was previously docked at the Watercraft boat shelter in front of the park office. The water level is now too low in that area to operate any boats. Price also thanked Watercraft officers for the now dozens of hours spent checking out firefighters on how to operate the jet boat. Price wants as many firefighters able to operate the boat as possible. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.
Obermiller said the assessment of the docks on the dam should be complete in the next two weeks (by May 15). “It’s going to be difficult if not impossible to do it (address these docks) from the water,” he acknowledged. “At whose cost is yet to be determined.”
He did clear up some confusion about whether dock work could be done any- where on the lake. ODNR is only concerned about the docks on the dam. Otherwise dock owners should follow the past process of getting a permit from ODNR to repair or replace a dock.
“We’re well aware the Rizzo report is coming,” Obermiller said in response to a question. “It will be read. There is no agenda we’re trying to push.”
He was asked if USACE is involved in the decisionmaking. Obermiller said “no,” but the lines of communication are open. “That’s the report (USACE) that we believe in and are operating off of,” he added .
ODNR Deputy Director Gary Obermiller mentioned the lake drains at the April 30 Buckeye Lake Coalition meeting at the Buckeye Lake Winery. Some residents were unfamiliar with them. There are two lake drains, one at each spillway. This is the drain at the Seller’s Point spillway off Ohio 360. The other one is on the right side of the Buckeye Lake Village spillway. Both allow water to be drained even when the lake level is far below the spillway. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.
When asked about fish kills, Obermiller said, “We won’t allow dead fish to sit out here and rot. Fish cleanup “will be on us.” He added that the low water level will be good for the bog.
“My intent is to be at most of these Thursday meetings,” he pledged. He is expected to be at the May 7 meeting which begins at 6 p.m. at the winery.