ODNR complies with court order for Grand Lake St. Marys spillway

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced it has fully complied with all aspects of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Dec. 4 order by filing appropriation cases for all of the remaining parcels in the litigation regarding the Grand Lake St. Marys spillway. ODNR has diligently worked to exceed all deadlines and file the proper paperwork ahead of schedule.

“We recognize our responsibility to comply with the Court’s order and are doing everything in our power to expedite these cases,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “However, paying for land that doesn’t flood, and paying too much for flooding not caused by the spillway modifications, is simply wasting taxpayers’ money. Our commitment remains to Ohio taxpayers, which is why we have taken a careful and thoughtful approach to how we handle these cases.”

ODNR filed a declaratory judgment in late December, two weeks before the court-mandated deadline. As of mid-February, ODNR had complied with the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling and completed all of the 45 necessary appraisals, well before the required deadline, and had filed all of the corresponding court cases prior to the 120 day deadline given by the court. A Notice of Compliance has been delivered to the Ohio Supreme Court notifying the Court of the department’s actions and compliance.

The department has done its due diligence in properly preparing for these cases and stands ready to move forward. However, the plaintiff’s attorneys have repeatedly stalled this case asking for multiple continuances, which has delayed the next case by more than four months.

ODNR has made fair settlement offers to all of the property owners whose parcels were not included in the declaratory judgment, four of which have accepted the department’s offer and will be settled outside of court. The department will not put in place deposits for any of the remaining cases, but rather secure the funding independently at a time when the court cases are determined.

The reason for this case dates back to 1997, when ODNR installed a horseshoe-shaped dam in the hopes that the lake would become more self-sustaining and no longer require ODNR to drain the lake once a year to prevent flooding.  However, that goal was never realized and the residents and business owners of the area have suffered significant floods almost every year for the last 15 years. Flooding was bad enough to damage crops and temporarily evacuate homes.

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