Bryce Browning
Bryce Browning, founder of the
Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District
Arthur E. Morgan
Arthur E. Morgan, first Chief Engineer of the
Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) was created on June 3, 1933, in accordance with Ohio law to carry out a comprehensive flood control and water conservation project in the Muskingum River Watershed and to secure the necessary financial cooperation between and among individual property owners and the local, state, and federal government.

As a result of a contract between the United States of America and the MWCD signed March 29, 1934, the federal government allocated to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) the sum of $22,090,000.00 to accomplish this project. Included in the scope of work of the project was the preparation of the first Official Plan of the MWCD. That plan was approved by the MWCD Conservancy Court on November 19, 1934. The MWCD Official Plan has been the subject of revision on three occasions, on April 15, 1935; June 5, 1935; and June 11, 2005.

The Official Plan for the MWCD called for the construction of 14 dams and reservoirs which comprise the principal part of a coordinated and comprehensive system designed to provide an equitable distribution of flood control and water conservation features throughout the basin. These dams and reservoirs would be located in the watersheds of three main tributaries of the Muskingum River: the Walhonding River, the Tuscarawas River, and the Wills Creek.

  • In the Walhonding Basin, dams were constructed creating the Mohawk Reservoir on the Walhonding River, Pleasant Hill Reservoir on the Clear Fork, Charles Mill Reservoir on the Black Fork, and Mohicanville Reservoir on the Lake Fork.
  • In the Tuscarawas Basin, dams were constructed creating the Dover Reservoir on the Tuscarawas River, Atwood Reservoir on the Indian Fork, Leesville Reservoir on the McGuire Creek, Bolivar Reservoir on the Sandy Creek, Beach City Reservoir on the Sugar Creek, Tappan Reservoir on the Little Stillwater Creek, Clendening Reservoir on the Brushy Fork, and Piedmont Reservoir on the Stillwater Creek.
  • In the Wills Creek Basin, dams were constructed creating the Wills Creek Reservoir on the Wills Creek, and Senecaville Reservoir on the Seneca Fork.

This system of dams and reservoirs was designed to be operated so that the reservoirs could be filled to the height of the spillways in the event of a storm with a total five-day rainfall 36 percent larger than the magnitude of the March 1913 storm, one of the worst floods of record and the catalyst for the creation of the MWCD. At maximum flood elevation, approximately 77,730 acres would be used to hold water and lower flood stages, thereby providing flood protection for communities and properties below the dams. Flood easements to hold water were obtained while protecting the due process rights of the landowners who were compensated fair market value by the federal government for the applicable rights.

Additional channel improvement and other protective measures were anticipated in order to provide further protection to local areas throughout the watershed.

While the primary purpose of the 14 reservoirs is flood control, 10 of the reservoirs were also designed to provide storage for water conservation and recreation. This conservation feature has enabled withdrawals of water during periods of low inflow to increase the flow of streams, be of considerable value for water supply, replenish groundwater storage, reduce pollution, promote fish and wildlife, enhance commercial and residential development, and provide a wide variety of recreational uses.

With the passage of the Flood Control Act of 1939, the federal government confirmed its commitment to be primarily responsible for flood control operations in the MWCD. The Act specifically authorized the transfer of ownership of the 14 dams to the United States to be operated by the USACE. MWCD has remained responsible for the operation and maintenance of the reservoir areas under its ownership and control. The USACE, with the cooperation of the MWCD, has operated the dams in accordance with its Comprehensive Ohio River Flood Control Plan and its Water Control Manuals.

Since the construction of the system of reservoirs and dams, the USACE estimates that $10 billion worth of potential damage from flooding has been saved in the Muskingum River Watershed.


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Click here for MWCD 90th Anniversary