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Some flooding relief work could get started this year

BUCKEYE LAKE – The March 18-19 rain that lead to the closure of I-70 eastbound lanes wasn’t particularly noteworthy.

Julia Dian-Reed of the National Weather Service’s Wilmington officesaid roughly 2.25 to 2.75 inches of rain fell during the nearly 48 hour event. That puts it somewhere between a once every two to fiveyear event. Planners typically focus on a 100 year, or once every 100 years flood. For the Buckeye Lake area that would be 5.45 to 6.5 inches of rain in a 24 hour period.

A couple of factors contributed to the extent of last week’s flooding. First, Dian-Reed said there was roughly .75 – 1.0 inches of snow water equivalent which melted into the basin between March 9 -14. That snow melt brought Buckeye Lake’s level close to spilling over at the Seller’s Point spillway. The rain then pushed lake levels over the spillway. It was the first time in at least four to fiveyears that Buckeye Lake has contributed water to the South Fork of the Licking River during a flood. That extra water, combined with the saturated ground from the snow melt, turned a two to fiveyear frequency rain fall event into a moderate flood.

Seller’s Point can discharge 2,000 cubic feet of water per second, according to Director Dan Bolger of the South Licking Watershed Conservancy District. ODNR has acknowledged for years that the design of the Seller’s Point spillway has increased flood levels in the Ohio 360 and Village of Buckeye Lake areas.

A project to reduce water levels to pre-Seller’s Point spillway conditions has been stalled for years. That log jam is expected to break this year, ODNR Chief Engineer Dave Mohr, PE told the Beacon this week.

“Construction documents are 95 percent complete,” he said. The project will widen the South Fork channel to 85 feet from its intersection with the Seller’s Point discharge channel to a point about 1,000 feet downstream from where the South Fork passes under Ohio 79 on the north side of I-70.

Ten of the needed 11 construction easements have been obtained. The last one should be wrapped up in about three months. Evaluations of the Massasauga rattlesnake and Indiana bat have been completed. Some additional archeological evaluation is still required, but Mohr expects it to be done in four to six weeks.

He hopes to get bids out this summer, with work starting in the fall. Construction will take some eight months over a 12 month period. Cleaning the channel under I-70 will require some nighttime lane closures which must be coordinated with ODOT. Project cost estimates are now about $3 million, but ODNR has set funds aside for it.

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