The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) determined, based on professional engineering assessments, that dam safety improvements completed over the past eight months — nearly one year ahead of schedule — allow for water levels to be increased two feet above winter pool at the more than 3,100-acre Buckeye Lake.
The first phase of the Buckeye Lake improvements are now complete and provide the community and the residents downstream with a structure that offers significant protections against potential dam failure, as well as allowing for interim water levels to be raised above winter pool. The new seepage barrier and stability berm have been planned and constructed just 15 months after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deemed the lake to be at risk for catastrophic failure and had recommended draining the lake.
“This project is an enormous undertaking, and I’m proud of the engineers and staff that have worked around the clock to build a safer structure for the residents of the Buckeye Lake community and all who enjoy this wonderful state park,” said James Zehringer, ODNR Director. “While the final project is not yet complete, we have cleared an enormous hurdle, allowing us to maintain a higher water level and provide more recreational opportunities for visitors and businesses around the lake.”
Following completion of the stability berm and seepage barrier, engineers from Gannett Fleming and ASI, the contractors building the dam, assessed the structure. At that time, they recommended to ODNR that two feet above winter pool would be an acceptable level for the water to be maintained at this stage in the project. ODNR dam engineers have reviewed and accepted that recommendation, with the understanding that proactive lake management will be utilized to keep the water at a safe level.
“The team that ODNR assembled, including Gannett Fleming, ASI and all of the subcontractors, worked day and night to get phase one done in less than a year, in anticipation of bringing the water level up, and we appreciate everyone’s patience,” said Robert Kline, Gannett Fleming Vice President and Deputy Manager of the Dams and Hydraulics Section. “The Buckeye Lake Dam is in a much safer state than it was prior to completing phase one, and therefore public risk has been significantly reduced.”
The water levels at Buckeye Lake will continue to be proactively monitored and maintained at this recommended depth during the recreational seasons, until the dam replacement project is completed, which is scheduled for 2019. When the new dam meets the required safety standards, the water will be returned to full summer pool.
Initial estimates regarding cost and timeline have been significantly reduced thanks to exceptional planning and aggressive timelines. Initial estimates placed the cost of the new dam at $150 million, but current estimates indicate that the state could achieve nearly a 20% savings on total cost. In addition, the completion of the first phase of the project nearly a year ahead of schedule is allowing recreational boating to occur on the lake much earlier. Phase two of the Buckeye Lake Dam replacement project is currently being designed.