MWCD Board agrees to begin assessment, work in 2009

September 26, 2008

Projects and collection of an assessment will begin in 2009 to rehabilitate and maintain the system of reservoirs and dams that reduce the effects of flooding and provide water for the benefit of Muskingum River Watershed property owners and residents.

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) Board of Directors approved the assessment to be collected by the conservancy district during a meeting today (Sept. 26) in New Philadelphia. The MWCD has reported that nearly 95 percent of properties in the watershed subject to the assessment will pay the minimum rate of $12 annually when collection begins early next year.

"For nearly 70 years the reservoirs and dams in the Muskingum River Watershed have protected people and property from flooding and provided water for a variety of beneficial public uses," said John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary. "Today's action by the Board of Directors will assist in the efforts by many agencies at the federal, state and local levels to ensure the safe and effective operation of the reservoirs and dams for future generations."

The assessment, provided for in the Ohio law that deals with conservancy districts, is the first in the MWCD's history. It is estimated nearly 500,000 parcels of property are subject to the assessment, which is collected as a part of a property owner's county real estate tax statements and is expected to generate slightly more than $10 million annually for the maintenance work, much of which will utilize private contractors.

The rehabilitation and maintenance plan will retain and create hundreds of jobs, and provide millions of dollars in economic development in the watershed, according to an economic forecast from a national expert.

The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state of Ohio, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed. The MWCD is a partner with the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the operation of the system of reservoirs and dams. The USACE operates the dams and the MWCD manages much of the reservoir areas behind the dams.

Since the construction of the system, the USACE estimates that more than $7 billion worth of potential property damage has been saved from flooding in the watershed. However, the age of the infrastructure of the reservoirs and dams is hampering the system from operating at its peak capacity, and four of the dams and a levee behind one dam have been slated by the federal government for maintenance needs that could exceed more than $600 million in upcoming years.

The USACE has said that it could spend up to $621 million on maintenance and rehabilitation at four dams - Beach City, Bolivar, Dover and Mohawk - and Zoar levee to address safety concerns over the next several years beginning in 2009. These five structures have been identified by the USACE to have an "urgent" need for maintenance work to improve their condition and reduce their risks for potential failure after a review of the dams operated by the federal government.

The MWCD will serve as the mandated non-federal local sponsor for the projects, with its share of the total cost ranging from an estimated $93.2 million to $123.1 million. The MWCD has proposed to pay for its share through the assessment.

The MWCD already has served as the local sponsor for maintenance projects for dam safety several years ago at Beach City Dam, and earlier this year at Dover Dam, where steel bar anchors were installed for stability at the dam.

The reservoirs managed by the MWCD behind the dams also are showing the effects of their age, with plans to address erosion, sedimentation, water quality issues and implementation of a modern emergency flood warning system to be enacted. The MWCD also will partner with other agencies, organizations and interested parties on maintenance projects that will benefit flood reduction and water conservation in the watershed.

"The efforts to work with others and share our resources and knowledge will stretch all of our budgets further and help us maximize the benefits for the watershed," Hoopingarner said. "One of the goals that the founders of the conservancy district had was for the MWCD to work with all levels of government and others who are interested in maintaining a quality watershed for our residents and economic growth.

"That goal continues today and will begin in earnest in 2009 with the work of our staff and all of our valued partners."

The 18 counties wholly or partially contained in the MWCD jurisdiction are Ashland, Belmont, Carroll, Coshocton, Guernsey, Holmes, Harrison, Knox, Licking, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Richland, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas, Wayne and Washington. More details about the MWCD is available at www.mwcd.org.

CONTACT:
Darrin Lautenschleger
Public Information Administrator
Toll-free: (877) 363-8500

 

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