ODNR Responds To Buckeye Lake Study

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Findings from a private study sponsored by the Buckeye Lake Chamber of Commerce will not cause any immediate changes in the lake level, according to an Ohio Department of Natural Resources official.

The Newark Advocate reports chamber presented some of the findings to the ODNR in a Tuesday meeting. The department did not receive a final copy of the report.

"From what we've seen, their recommendation reduces the risk of overtopping, however potentially increases pressure on the dam, which can cause uncontrolled seepage and impact public safety," Bethany McCorkle, communications spokesperson for ODNR, said in a Thursday afternoon statement. "The briefing did not offer a complete engineering analysis on the impact downstream.

"We share the desire to get Buckeye Lake back to an active recreational level as soon as possible, however we cannot knowingly raise the water level without a proper plan that meets Ohio's dam safety standards," McCorkle added.

Chamber President Tim Ryan said Thursday he felt the meeting with ODNR officials about the private study was positive and that he believed it opened up a line of communication for future discussions about the dam.

"Our desired outcome is for the safety of our community and the continued opportunity for prosperity for our business community," Ryan said.

Ryan said the executive summary of the study stated the water level could be safely raised if parts of the dam were fixed in the immediate future.

"If (ODNR) would be willing to do that, I think the community would be safer and it would allow businesses to continue to prosper," Ryan said.

The chamber-sponsored study was completed by Rizzo Associates, an engineering and consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, and is expected to be shared with attending chamber members and media at a private chamber event Friday morning.

Ryan said the chamber does not yet have a final version of the Rizzo report.

In March, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its own report that found the 4.1-mile earthen dam to be severely weakened. The report offered several suggestions for how to mitigate risk to the population and keep the dam from breaching.

The ODNR chose to lower Buckeye Lake to winter pool level, set at 888.75 feet above sea level. The department also has accepted several applications from engineers seeking to construct the new dam. Construction is projected to begin next summer.

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