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Q&A: ODNR refers to ‘potential’ boating season



LIEB’S ISLAND – Precious lake water continues to flow out the lake drain at the Seller’s Point spillway. The drain has now been open for nearly two weeks.

The lake level peaked just above 889.30 – about nine and a half inches above ODNR’s ‘new winter pool’ on January 5. It appears that the Seller’s Point lake drain was opened on January 6 and it was still open on January 18. The level had fallen to 888.61 by mid-day January 18, about one and a third inch above the ‘new winter pool.’

Last week, this writer saw Ian Nickey, Stakeholder Outreach – Buckeye Lake Dam Project, at the AMIL spillway in Buckeye Lake Village and asked him a number of questions about the lake management plan. He suggested including the questions in a joint email to him and ODNR spokesperson Matt Eiselstein, and giving them some additional time to respond.

Here are the Beacon questions sent to Nickey and Eiselstein on January 12, 2017:



1. Why is ODNR relying on past practice – closing the AMIL spillway on March 1 when the circumstances are considerably different this year? For example, the Division of Wildlife’s Buckeye Lake Fisheries Management Plan dated July 1, 2015, states that the surface area of the lake has been reduced from 2,872 acres to 2,363 (a nearly 18 percent loss). Even more significantly, the plan said the volume of water “is reduced from 14,641 acre-feet to 6,462 acre-feet.” That’s a volume reduction of 56 percent. That means a conservative 500 acres are dry and I doubt that includes the nearly dry canals. Bottom line: Considerably more rainwater or snow melt will be needed this spring to reach 890.5. More water requires more time!

2. How high is a stop bar? I’m guessestimating about four inches so it takes about six bars to raise the level two feet. Why can’t a couple of bars be placed now so the level can start raising incrementally with a couple more added by mid-February and the balance by March 1? That would significantly increase the odds that the lake will reach interim summer pool.

3. Why are the Phase 1 improvements considered adequate for 890.5 in the summer, but not for the late winter and early spring?

4. While we understand that the integrity of the dam is foremost, is the minimalist action plan being adjusted to reflect the impact of evaporation and the objective of maintaining the interim summer pool all season?

5. Does ODNR understand the devastating impact that the loss of another lake boating season would have on the local economy and property values? What steps are being taken to minimize the impact?

Here is Eiselstein’s complete and unedited response on January 18, 2017:

ODNR will actively manage the pool level of its reservoir during construction to ensure the safety of the dam. Public safety will continue to be the top consideration for all water level decisions.

The dam is in a safer state than it was prior to completing Phase 1 but will remain vulnerable to certain hazards until all dam improvements are complete in 2019. Those hazards include severe rain events that could overfill the reservoir and overtop the dam, and dangerous excavation along the downstream embankment that could destabilize the dam.

The target interim pool elevation provides storage capacity for a 200 year storm event without overtopping. The dam will not be able to withstand an overtopping in its current condition.

The target interim elevation was deliberately selected to reduce risk to tolerable levels while allowing for potential recreational boating during Phase 2 construction. Lowering the water level over the winter months reduces the time the dam is exposed to an elevated risk of overtopping and in particular increases the reservoir’s storage capacity for spring snowmelt and rains.

Examining data gathered over the previous two decades, the lake is expected to reach target interim pool level this May after stop logs are placed March 1. The target interim pool elev. is 890.5 ft., two feet above the target winter pool elev. of 888.5 ft.

Allowing the pool to rise significantly above the target interim pool level for an extended period of time to counteract possible summertime evaporation would increase risk above tolerable levels.

We’ll let readers draw their own conclusions this week.

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