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MWCD awards $205,000 in grants for 5 community projects

Five community projects located throughout the 18-county Muskingum River Watershed region in Eastern Ohio will receive a total of more than $205,000 in funding this year from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District’s (MWCD) “Partners in Watershed Management” grant program.

The MWCD Board of Directors recently approved the grants that assist local groups, organizations and communities in implementing water quality projects, flood reduction and mitigation programs and watershed education efforts throughout the region.

Since the inception of the Partners in Watershed Management program, a total of 42 projects have received more than $3 million worth of grant funding. The goal of the program is to provide a portion of the overall funding needed for approved projects, permitting eligible recipients to access other grants and partnering opportunities.

“We have been able to assist very worthy projects throughout the 18-county watershed region through the Partners in Watershed Management grants,” said Boris E. Slogar, MWCD chief engineer. “These projects also have a positive benefit to the entire watershed in areas such as water quality and flood reduction.”

Projects scheduled to receive funding from the MWCD this year include:

  • Camp Presmont located along Piedmont Lake in Belmont County, $65,968 as part of a $131,936 replacement wastewater treatment system.
  • Village of Leesville in Carroll County, $117,340 as part of a $2.54 million mandated wastewater system installation.
  • Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum located along Leesville Lake in Carroll County, $6,170 as part of a $15,170 “Cleaner Water Brighter Future” educational program.
  • Ohio State University Extension Service in Muskingum County, $1,000 as part of a $4,600 soils study program.
  • Ohio Valley Conservation Coalition in Summit County, $15,000 as part of a $54,000 Tuscarawas River and floodplain protection project.

Project grants are funded through proceeds from the assessment of property owners collected by the MWCD to provide for the safe and effective operation of the system of reservoirs and dams in the Muskingum River Watershed for flood reduction and water conservation.

Applications for Partners in Watershed Management projects are accepted by the MWCD with a deadline of Dec. 1, 2014, for projects seeking assistance in 2015. For details and application materials, visit the MWCD’s website at

The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the 16 reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving an estimated $10.7 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government, as well as providing popular recreational opportunities that bolster the region’s economy. A significant portion of the reservoirs are managed by the MWCD and the dams are managed for flood-risk management by the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

For more information about the MWCD, visit and follow the MWCD on Facebook and Twitter.

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Osprey Rescued from Tree Entangled in Fishing Line at Atwood Lake

Thanks to community cooperation and concern for wildlife, a distressed osprey was successfully rescued after becoming entangled in fishing line high up in a tree. The rescue mission, led by Atwood Park Staff, MWCD Rangers, Dellroy Fire Department, and DH Land Clearing took place over the weekend near Dellroy. 

A nearby resident noticed the osprey struggling in the tree and alerted local authorities. The osprey, had been ensnared in discarded fishing line, leaving it unable to free itself.

“We have an awesome, supportive community and were able to quickly assemble a team to attempt a successful recovery,” said John Lewis, Atwood Lake Park Manager. “This rescue serves as a reminder of the importance of responsible fishing practices and the impact on our wildlife. We cannot stress enough how important it is to discard used fishing lines, or other materials properly. We are grateful for the swift response of the community and the dedication of our team in ensuring the safety of this animal.”

Osprey after being freed  Stark Parks Wildlife Conservation Center

Rescuers managed to safely reach the distressed osprey and carefully remove the entangling fishing line. Following the successful rescue, the osprey was transported to Stark Park’s Wildlife Conservation Center where it is being cared for to ensure its health and well-being.

“The Osprey is doing fairly well,” said Stephon Echague, Animal Care Supervisor Stark County Park District’s Conservation Center. “He has a swollen leg where the fishing line was wrapped, but he can put weight on it, so that is a good sign. He will see the vet this week and is currently receiving fluids and being well-fed. If all goes well, and he continues to show positive improvements, we will look forward to releasing him back into the wild soon.”

Fishing line disposal bins are located at the public launch ramps, and various locations at each of the MWCD lakes. Additionally, residents are encouraged to report any wildlife in distress to local authorities.

Osprey entangled in fishing line    Fishing line disposal bin

Abundance of Pine Trees on MWCD Lands is no Accident!

MWCD has a long history of managing forests. To this day, MWCD maintains stewardship over the lands acquired in the 1930s. At that time, poor farming practices caused significant erosion of the lands, triggering water quality issues both locally and downstream. In the 1940s, and over the course of 30 years, to mitigate these inadequate farming practices, MWCD foresters, with help from the Civilian Conservation Corps, Soil Conservation Service, and National Youth Administration planted over 12 million trees covering over 7,000 acres for watershed protection in critical areas. Additionally, farmers were educated on best management practices so that the dilapidated grounds could be restored.

Initially, trees were hand planted, but foresters found a more efficient way to plant the trees by using mechanical means. A dozer was utilized to plow the soil into distinct ridges on the contour. In most cases a double plow would be used that contoured the ground into ridges and built a double layer of topsoil. The next time you walk MWCD lands, especially in a pine forest, you will still see these ridges that were created over 70 years ago. Once the ridge was formed, a dozer would come back through pulling a mechanical tree planter. The tree planter was custom built just for MWCD and could self-level which was important as plantings occurred on steep hills. The planter would open a hole in the ground allowing a single person riding the planter to physically place a pine seedling into the soil. The machine would then close the hole behind the tree once planted.

Winter and spring are the perfect time to look back and see the efforts of previous generations and the hard work they put into managing the lands. The primary tree of choice to plant were evergreens, including white pine, pitch pine, shortleaf pine, red pine, and Norway spruce. These evergreens really stand out in the winter and spring against the surrounding hardwoods. Early MWCD foresters considered planting hardwoods but had difficulties getting them to survive in the conditions of the landscape. In every location that you see pine on MWCD lands, those were once farm fields that 12-inch-tall seedlings were planted. Today, those seedlings are now upwards of 120-foot-tall pine trees.

Pine trees have significantly improved the poor soil conditions that existed long ago when the intent of foresters was to manage the forests for the best results in the future. However, many of those initial pine plantings are now overcrowded and becoming increasingly over-mature. One of the greatest principles of forest management is to limit the number of forests that contain one species. The susceptibility of mono-cultured forests to insects, diseases, and other forest pathogens is incredibly high. Wildlife diversity also thrives with more non-homogeneous forests. Adding a multitude of tree species that can provide much needed nutrition at different times of the year is crucial for wildlife diversity.

Today, MWCD foresters manage these pine plantations to help diversify the landscape. The intention is not to remove every pine from the land, but to manage the pine, primarily where there are no effects to the overall aesthetics of the lakes, campgrounds, or other significant viewsheds. Certain species of trees and wildlife depend on the habitat that is created through the management of these pine forests. In fact, an abundance of oak, hickory, and other keystone tree species take the place of the pines as they are properly managed. Wildlife diversity flourishes by creating much needed habitat in the form of young forests. Grouse, woodcock, deer, bobcats, and many species of non-game birds thrive in these young forests.

MWCD recently purchased 144 acres of land in the Tappan Lake region. This land, much like the land of the 1930’s, had been highly grazed by livestock leaving the soil compacted and highly acidic. MWCD will plant over 22,000 trees to repurpose this ground. Additionally, the trees will create great thermal cover for wildlife and aid in enhancing the water quality. It is our hope that the trees will survive into the future and improve the soil just as previous generations knew they would.


This article was written by Clayton Rico, Forest Operations Coordinator and was featured in the MWCD newsletter, LakeViews. 

MWCD Announces Law Enforcement Scholarship Program to Support Future Leaders in Public Safety

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), a leading advocate for community safety and law enforcement excellence, is thrilled to announce its inaugural Law Enforcement Scholarship Program offered through Buckeye Career Center. This program is designed to recognize and support individuals pursuing a career in law enforcement, fostering the development of the next generation of public safety leaders.

The Law Enforcement Scholarship Program aims to address the critical need for well-qualified and dedicated professionals in law enforcement by providing financial assistance to deserving students. Through this initiative, MWCD seeks to contribute to the advancement of public safety practices and ensure that communities continue to be protected by highly skilled and compassionate law enforcement officers.

Scholarship Details:

The MWCD is partnering with the Buckeye Career Center Friends of Adult Education Foundation to financially assist adult students in Buckeye Career Center’s Ohio Peace Office Training Academy (OPOTA). Eligible candidates must meet the following criteria:

  1. Application to Buckeye Career Center’s Full-Time OPOTA program and enrollment requirements;
  2. Register with Buckeye Career Center’s Student Services;
  3. Scholarship funds shall be used for tuition and/or fees for the OPOTA at Buckeye Career Center, up to and including the full cost of the program;
  4. Recipient(s) must exhaust other sources of scholarships or grants before being eligible to receive funds from the MWCD Law Enforcement Scholarship.

Applications for the scholarship must be submitted by August 30, 2023.

“We are delighted to launch the Law Enforcement Scholarship Program, as it aligns perfectly with our mission to promote excellence in law enforcement and foster stronger community ties,” said Craig Butler, MWCD executive director. “By investing in the education of promising students, we hope to encourage their pursuit of a rewarding career in law enforcement and contribute to a safer and more secure society for all.”

Once students complete their required OPOTA training, they are eligible to pursue a career in law enforcement, which includes the possibility of becoming a MWCD Ranger. MWCD Rangers are vital in ensuring the safety of over 5 million visitors who choose MWCD’s parks, marinas, lakes, and campgrounds as their recreation destination each year. Rangers also oversee the safety of MWCD’s 1204 cottage sites.

For more information about the MWCD Law Enforcement Scholarship Program and how to apply, please visit or contact Megan Zimmerman at Buckeye Career center at (330) 308-5720 or [email protected].

UPDATE: Route 574 Detour Near Seneca Lake Begins Tuesday, July 25, 2023

UPDATE: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced that the partial closure of Seneca Dam Road has been delayed. A portion of Seneca Dam Road (OH-574) will now be closed from 6:00 a.m. July 25th through 7:00 p.m. July 28th approximately one-half mile south of the Lashley Road (OH-313) intersection.

Motorists are advised to use the following alternate route to access Seneca Lake Park:

   Use Alternate Route 313 East/West to Route 285 South to Route 566 East to Route 574 North.

The closure is happening to allow maintenance to be completed on Senecaville Lake equipment. A second round of closures is expected to begin in August.

For more information, contact the USACE Public Affairs Office at 304-399-5353.

MWCD Celebrates Park and Recreation Month

Since 1985, July has been celebrated as the nation’s official Park and Recreation Month. Created by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), Park and Recreation Month specifically highlights the essential and powerful role local park and recreation professionals — such as our staff at Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) — play in building stronger, more vibrant and more resilient communities all across the country. 

This July, we will celebrate the vital role park and recreation professionals play in bringing people together, providing essential services and fostering the growth of our communities.

“July is the perfect time to share how our park and recreation professionals contribute to the overall health, well-being and growth of our community,” said Craig Butler, MWCD Executive Director. “We serve a vital function to provide outdoor recreation opportunities to more than five million guests who come to our lakes every summer. It is so important that park systems thrive to enrich the communities, and lives of the guests that we serve. We encourage everyone in to come celebrate the power of parks and recreation with us this July.”

MWCD is leading initiatives and providing opportunities for people of all ages, abilities, and identities to achieve healthier lifestyles, promote and understand nature and environmental resilience, as well as bring the community closer through a variety of programs and services. Programs range from guided hikes, kayak tours, day camps, live music, and movies under the stars to name a few.

NRPA encourages everyone who supports parks and recreation to share how it has impacted their lives with the hashtag #WhereCommunityGrows. For more information, visit 

Learn about the exciting activities planned at MWCD parks online at

Click to view a message from MWCD Executive Director, Craig Butler


ODOT State Route 800 Bridge Removal Project

Tuscarawas County: Starting July 5, SR 800 will close five miles south of Dennison for a bridge removal project located at Tracy Road. The closure duration is 45 days. Traffic will be detoured via U.S. 250 east to U.S. 22 west, U.S. 22 west back to SR 800, and reverse. The completion date for the entire project is June 30, 2024.

For an exact location visit,construction-future&id=construction-WZ000000395_00759

Route 574 Detour Near Seneca Lake Begins Monday, July 17, 2023

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced that a portion of Seneca Dam Road (OH-574) will be closed from 6:00 a.m. July 17th through 7:00 p.m. July 20th and then again from 6:00 a.m. July 24th through 7:00 p.m.  July 27th approximately one-half mile south of the Lashley Road (OH-313) intersection.

Motorists are advised to use the following alternate route to access Seneca Lake Park:

   Use Alternate Route 313 East/West to Route 285 South to Route 566 East to Route 574 North.

The closure is happening to allow maintenance to be completed on Senecaville Lake equipment. A second round of closures is expected to begin in August.

Click here for a PDF copy of the detour. 

For more information, contact the USACE Public Affairs Office at 304-399-5353.

MWCD’s 90-Year History on Display

From Wendy Zucal, Executive Director of the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum

As the MWCD commemorates its 90th anniversary, a new featured exhibit at the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum – a National Historic Landmark — is an opportunity for us to do just that. As of June 3, the public is able to move through an immersive story of the District’s beginnings, its progress through the years, its highlights, a description of its future, and an interactive hands-on children’s component families will enjoy. I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to learn more about the history of the MWCD and how it works every day to make our lives safer and secure our homes, businesses, and communities.

A look back at the 90-year history is an inspiring story that sets our region apart.

The MWCD was established on June 3, 1933, in response to the destructive floods that had plagued eastern Ohio for years, particularly the devastating flood of 1913 which claimed the lives of approximately 470 Ohioans. To avoid a repeat of this disaster, the District began constructing dams and reservoirs throughout the Muskingum River Watershed — the largest watershed in Ohio — encompassing a fifth of the state.

Since then, the MWCD has gone on to create an extensive system of flood control resources, including a series of dams and reservoirs. These projects have helped prevent or reduce flooding or its impact throughout eastern Ohio, as well as provide water storage for agricultural and industrial use. In total, it is estimated that the District’s flood mitigation system has helped prevent $8 billion in flood damage.

The MWCD’s mission is more than just flood mitigation. Over the years it has grown to include recreation and conservation, as well.

Early on, the District’s leadership recognized how its network of lakes and surrounding lands could be used for recreation and how that could contribute to the region’s economy. In the 1960s and 1970s, the MWCD transformed many of its reservoirs into popular recreation destinations, enhancing marinas and building campgrounds.

Today, the MWCD manages over 57,000 acres of land and water, including nine campgrounds and 10 marinas on Atwood, Clendening, Charles Mill, Leesville, Piedmont, Pleasant Hill, Seneca, and Tappan lakes and public access areas that offer boating, fishing, camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities throughout the District.

More recently, the MWCD has turned its attention to further enhance conservation efforts throughout the region. The District has recognized the importance of preserving the natural resources of the region for future generations and works with local partners to responsibly manage the resources within the District. Preserving the land helps lead to better water quality, which makes the lakes more valuable for recreation and helps with flood mitigation. Educating the public and land users supports this work as well.

  The MWCD has played a vital role in the development and conservation of our region, and its impact will be recognized for decades. We can all be proud of the work that generations of MWCD team members have made through the years and how their work has helped both tame the rough edges but also preserve all that is beautiful about the Muskingum River Watershed and the region we call home.

MWCD joins Operation Dry Water to increase awareness of the dangers associated with boating under the influence

New Philadelphia, OH (June 29, 2023) — In an effort to educate recreational boaters nationwide about the dangers of boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) will be participating in the annual Operation Dry Water campaign. The mission of Operation Dry Water is to decrease the number of alcohol- and drug-related incidents and fatalities on the water.

Operation Dry Water weekend, July 1-3, is the national weekend dedicated to amplified recreational boater outreach, education, and coordinated enforcement surrounding boating under the influence. Alcohol use continues to be the leading known contributing factor in recreational boater deaths and a leading contributor in boating incidents.[1] The MWCD encourages all boaters to enjoy this boating season and help keep everyone safe by choosing to boat sober all year long. Use of both legal and illegal drugs also impairs judgment and reaction time and creates dangerous circumstances while on the water.

“Individuals and families from across the country head to our nation’s waterways for a fun, safe, and pleasant experience out on the water. Our goal is to not only educate boaters on the dangers of impaired boating, but also to remind them of other safe boating practices, such as enrolling in a boater education course and always wearing a life jacket,” says Patrick Brockmeier, MWCD Chief Ranger.  “To ensure that everyone is safe out on the water, we have partnered with Operation Dry Water to assist in educating operators and passengers on the dangers associated with boating under the influence. The MWCD wants boaters to have a safe and enjoyable summer while out on the water, and to do that boat operators and passengers must remain sober and alert while underway.”

As part of Operation Dry Water weekend, recreational boating safety advocates and volunteers, in collaboration with law enforcement in every U.S. state and territory, will be out at marinas and on the water educating boaters about safe boating practices. Law enforcement will also be working to identify and remove dangerous and impaired operators. In 2022, law enforcement officers across the nation removed 794 impaired operators from our nation’s waterways during the Operation Dry Water weekend.

MWCD supports these educational and enforcement efforts prior to the 4th of July holiday to ensure the safety of recreational boaters and water sport enthusiasts. The risk of serious injury is the same for operators and passengers when drinking. Additionally, alcohol use by passengers presents a danger regardless of whether the operator is consuming alcohol or not.2

Boaters can learn more about boating under the influence by visiting Operation Dry Water is coordinated nationally by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.


1 2021 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics

2 2019 Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Research Report

About Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District

The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the 16 reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving over $7 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government, as well as providing popular recreational opportunities that bolster the region’s economy garnering more than 5 million visitors annually. A significant portion of the reservoirs are managed by the MWCD and the dams are managed for flood-risk management by the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). For more information about the MWCD, visit and follow the MWCD on Facebook and Twitter.

Maintenance Assessment Update for Guernsey Co. Taxpayers

Due to an administrative error by Woolpert, many Guernsey County residents were overcharged for the 2023 Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District’s (MWCD) annual assessment on first half tax bills. 

Woolpert, Inc. (the contractor for the MWCD), sent a corrected billing file to the Guernsey County Auditor’s Office in late February 2023 after the errors were found. The Auditor’s office staff worked diligently to manually correct all the parcels that were not paid in full. Second half tax bills will be correct.  

If you believe that your MWCD Maintenance Assessment is still incorrectplease contact Woolpert Project Manager, Yaneev Golmbek by phone at 1-720-279-3772 or by email at [email protected].

Woolpert is currently providing refund checks to the property owners who paid their tax bills in full and were overcharged. Property owners are asked to cash refund checks within sixty (60) days. 

Woolpert Refund Letter

Guernsey County Auditor’s Website 

Guernsey County Assessment Refund List

Muskingum Watershed Conservancy Court Appoints New Member to the Board of Directors


Photograph 1: Colonel Jayson Putnam, USACE Huntington District Commander, Joanne Limbach, Craig Butler, MWCD Executive Director 

Photograph 2: Jennifer Ponchak


New Philadelphia, OH (June 8, 2023) — A quorum of judges attending a Conservancy Court session of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) have appointed Jennifer Ponchak from Morgan County to fill a vacancy on the five member MWCD Board of Directors. Ponchak was appointed to a five-year term on the Board of Directors during the Court’s session held Friday, June 2, in the Tuscarawas County Courthouse at New Philadelphia. She fills the seat held by Joanne Limbach who served on the MWCD board for a total of 20 years.

“I congratulate Jennifer on her appointment to the Board of Directors,” said Craig Butler, MWCD Executive Director.  “Jennifer’s background will prove to be helpful as we continue to enhance our conservation and flood mitigation efforts, so I look forward to working with her in the future.”

Ponchak is the founder of Follow the River Environmental, a specialty company that performs clearing and grubbing, erosion control, seeding landscaping and environmental consulting services on private commercial, heavy highway and municipal projects.  Follow the River is a certified DBE, SBE, EDGE and WBE Company.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources from The Ohio State University, CPESC and CPSWQ certifications and is a Licensed Underground Storage Tank Installer. 

Butler said, “Joanne is the longest serving board member – serving 20 years. She has dedicated her professional life to public service with MWCD, the State of Ohio, and many other national and local causes. On behalf of all MWCD staff past and present, we thank her for her service.”

“Thank you to the Conservancy Court, US Army Corps of Engineers, MWCD Board, and colleagues for the opportunity to participate in public service at its best,” said Limbach. “I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the district through many years of change, many ups and downs. Through it all, the MWCD has been true to the values created at the inception, which is to provide flood mitigation, conservation, and outdoor recreation to the citizens in the region, and I am honored to be a part of this history.”

Colonel Jayson Putnam, USACE Huntington District Commander, USACE Huntington District Commander provided an update which included projects on the Dam Safety Classification within the MWCD.

Craig Butler presented the annual report of operations which was approved by the court and encompasses the overview of the success of the MWCD from 2022. To view the annual report, visit

Other members of the MWCD Board of Directors include President, Retired Honorable Judge Robert S. Moorehead of Guernsey County, Gordon T. Maupin of Wayne County, Jim Gresh of Stark County, and Retired Major General Ronald E. Dziedzicki of Medina County.

Members of Board of Directors are appointed by the Conservancy Court to oversee the operations and business affairs of the MWCD, which manages more than 57,000 acres of land and water dedicated to public use. Board members meet once a month in open, public session.


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