Colonel explains urgency for work on dams in watershed

June 7, 2008

The federal government is planning to begin construction on several dams in the Muskingum River Watershed over the next five years and spend up to an estimated $621 million to address safety and maintenance concerns.

Col. Dana Hurst, commander of the Huntington (WV) District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), provided a review of the planned projects to the member judges of the Conservancy Court of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) during the Court's session today (June 7). The USACE owns the dams and Hurst said the agency has identified four dams - Bolivar, Beach City, Dover and Mohawk, as well as Zoar Levee - with a high level of safety deficiencies that do not permit them to be operated at full design capacity to reduce flooding along the Muskingum River and its tributaries.

"The partnership we have with the Conservancy District is strong and it was confirmed with the flooding that occurred in March of this year," Hurst said. "We also appreciate the leadership the MWCD is taking in serving as the local sponsor for the rehabilitation needed at several projects to ensure their safe operation."

Hurst spoke before the Court during its annual session in the Tuscarawas County Courthouse at New Philadelphia. The Court, which holds judicial jurisdiction over the MWCD, meets at least once a year to review the MWCD's operations and handle other legal proceedings. It consists of one common pleas judge from each of the 18 counties of jurisdiction in the MWCD region.

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 USACE in the operation of the system of dams in the watershed, as the USACE operates the dams and the MWCD manages much of the reservoir areas behind the dams. John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary, reminded members of the Court that the MWCD is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2008.

Hurst told the judges that construction is scheduled to begin in 2009 on work at Dover Dam, with projects at the other dams to commence in the following years. 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 an assessment of property owners in the watershed according to Ohio law.

Hurst also provided a synopsis of the March 2008 flooding in the watershed, noting that the dams and reservoirs prevented an estimated $160 million worth of potential damage from flooding by reducing crests along the Muskingum River and its tributaries. He said an around-the-clock operation at Zoar Levee that lasted nearly a week was enacted during the flooding to address safety concerns discovered in the levee, and Atwood Reservoir established a new pool of record for water stored at the reservoir.

Since their original construction, the dams and reservoirs have prevented more than $7 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the USACE.

Hoopingarner updated the Court on several 2007 events and projects involving the Conservancy District, including its participation in a project started late in the year at Dover Dam to install 17 bar anchors for additional stability. The MWCD will provide more than $38,000 of the $1.1 million cost to the USACE as the local sponsor for the project, which was completed earlier this year.

The 18 counties in the MWCD jurisdiction are Ashland, Belmont, Carroll, Coshocton, Guernsey, Holmes, Harrison, Knox, Licking, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Richland, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas, Wayne and Washington.

In other business, the Court:

• Approved the 2007 Annual Report of Operations for the MWCD, a legally required document to be presented each year for Court consideration.
• Reappointed Steve Kokovich of New Concord to a new five-year term on the MWCD Board of Directors. Kokovich, a Muskingum College administrator and professor, recently completed a five-year term. By rule of the Court, members of the Board of Directors are limited to two consecutive five-year terms.
• Reappointed Mark Waltz of Dover and James Navratil of Medina to new terms on the MWCD Board of Apprasiers. A resolution of service commendation also was approved by the Court for Thomas Roe, who recently resigned his seat on the MWCD Board of Appraisers. A recommendation to the Court for Roe's replacement will be made by the Board of Directors.
• Scheduled its next annual meeting June 6, 2009.

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


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