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Governor Kasich Vows New Dam At Buckeye Lake

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Andy Chow, OPR
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Gov. John Kasich discusses plans to fix Buckeye Lake Dam with other department directors at the Ohio EMA headquarters in Columbus.

Gov. John Kasich says Buckeye Lake has “dodged a bullet” since the faulty earthen dam has not failed. On Thursday, Kasich outlined a plan to save the lake. In short, the dam will be replaced.

“It’s just not an acceptable situation,” says Kasich.  

The 180 year old dam has been weakened by several hundred homes built into it, along with docks, trees and utility lines. An Army Corps of Engineers report warned of “catastrophic failure” at any time.

“And the Corps of Engineers, when looking at the Buckeye Lake dam, said they’ve never seen anything like this, it’s really in bad, bad, bad shape,” Kasich says.

Water levels will be kept at low winter levels until the new dam is built. Locals say the low water levels could sink summer recreation, but the governor says there will be no debate over water levels.

“There’ll be no negotiations on the height of that water,” says Kasich. “We have a winter pool situation which puts less pressure on that dam. We don’t want to get into a discussion about well, we can have it a little bit higher, we can water ski. Plenty of water skiing once this is done. But, in the meantime we don’t want to jeopardize anybody’s life because we are in any way casual about this circumstance.”

Kasich adds that he wants real time evacuation drills for Buckeye Lake residents and businesses while the new dam is built. The Corps of Engineers report says as many as 3,000 lives are at risk if the compromised dam fails.

Construction could take four to five years. Buckeye Lake mayor Clay Carroll says that’s a problem for village businesses.

“I know they projected it could take five years to get the new dam in place and so forth. I would certainly hope they could find some quicker methods or whatever, to that,” Carroll says.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director, Jim Zehringer, says permits and design proposals will be expedited, but it will be years before a new dam is in place and water levels return to normal.

“A state contract, particularly one of this magnitude and complexity includes procurement, design and construction and we’re ready to put that out in the very, very near future. We’re hoping as early as next week we can start that,” says Zehringer.

The estimated cost of the new dam project is 125-million to 150-million. The project will be financed through the state’s capital budget. Bonds will likely be issued to finance the costs.