Chamber of commerce seeks second opinion on failing dam at central Ohio's Buckeye Lake

The regional chamber of commerce at central Ohio's Buckeye Lake is seeking a second expert opinion following a federal report warning of a catastrophic dam failure that could put 3,000 lives at risk.

The recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report concluded there is a high risk of failure at the 4.1-mile earthen dam at the lake, about 30 miles east of Columbus. Gov. John Kasich has said that Ohio will replace the dam. In the meantime, the lake is being kept at winter levels of about 3 feet, roughly half the typical summer depth, which has raised locals' concerns about boating, tourism, businesses and property values.

Buckeye Lake Region Chamber of Commerce hired Pittsburgh-based Rizzo Associates last week to perform its own independent study of the dam, The Columbus Dispatch reported ( ). The firm also studied the dam in 1997, when it reported that the structure was stable.

Chamber leaders aren't seeking to discredit the Corps' report, but hope a second opinion will nudge the state to replace the dam faster with less damage to local businesses, chamber director Tim Ryan said.

Kasich said replacing the dam will take several years and cost an estimated $125 million to $150 million. He said the low water level isn't up for debate. In the meantime, emergency management officials are planning exercises in case the dam fails.

The chamber said it's seeking to "evaluate viable options to expedite any necessary repairs without further economic hardship to people and businesses in the Buckeye Lake region," the newspaper reported.

The chamber's independent report is expected to be completed by May 13.

The state said it hasn't received any requests for additional access to the dam for an engineering study, but would consider each request individually.


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch,