Buckeye Lake Businesses See Sales Slide Over Memorial Day Weekend


It's a Memorial Day Weekend that's turned into a bust for restaurant owner John Doneff. 

“I’m already losing money,” said Doneff.  "I should be packed today.  Why am I not packed?  Because there's no water in the lake."

Doneff runs Island House and is feeling the impact from the problems on Buckeye Lake.

The state is keeping the water levels at about three feet because there's fear the 177 year-old dam could break.

The Army Corps of Engineers came to that conclusion in March and as a safety precaution water levels are being kept at a low level.

The shallow water has made it difficult for some people to launch their boats and that’s having a huge impact on businesses.

"The State of Ohio doesn't know what it is doing and because of that we're all suffering for it,” said Doneff.  "Huge economic impact on this area for no good reason."

While the state works on a solution for the aging dam, business owners on Buckeye Lake fear this summer could be a washout given the huge drop in sales already over this holiday weekend.

Tracy Higginbotham runs Buckeye Lake Winery. 

He said typically his establishment is packed this time of year but the low water levels mean the boat docks are empty and therefore his sales are tanking.

Higginbotham is now looking at other ways to draw in visitors.

"I'm really focusing on road signage so all of my capital improvement is shelved other than getting roads signs up from Interstate 70 to here,”  said Higginbotham.  “So if I can capture one-tenth of one-percent of 41,000 cars that drive by there every day that will certainly help."

Business owners said the dam does need some TLC, but they don't believe the state should keep water levels at low levels during the repair process. 

An engineering firm hired by the Buckeye Lake Chamber of Commerce is recommending raising the water levels to five feet to accommodate boaters.

But the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has said it isn't planning on increasing the water level anytime soon.

In the meantime, business owners are bracing for one of the worst summer seasons.

"I've never seen a Memorial Day weekend like we have gotten right now,” said Doneff.  "I'm going to survive.  A lot of places aren't going to survive."

"The economic conditions will come back but the pathway to get there is looking like a very long pass right now,” said Higginbotham.