Commander updates Conservancy Court on MWCD area projects

June 9, 2011

Progress continues at a steady pace on planning and construction for five priority projects to stabilize and ensure the safe and effective performance of the flood risk management dams in the Muskingum River Watershed.


Work has begun on the initial phase of construction at Dover Dam and additional planning and preparation is under way on the four other priority projects in the region, according to Col. Robert Peterson, commander of the Huntington (WV) District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which operates the 16 dams in the Muskingum River Watershed. The other priority projects are at Beach City, Bolivar and Mohawk dams, along with Zoar Levee.


The USACE estimates the five priority projects will cost up to $683.5 million and that construction will begin on the four remaining projects over the next several years. The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) has committed to be the federally mandated local cost-share sponsor for the work with an estimated investment of up to $143.6 million.


During testimony before the judges of the MWCD Conservancy Court at a session held Saturday (June 4), Peterson said that 36 multi-strand anchors are being installed at Dover Dam to improve the dam’s stability. Located on the Tuscarawas River north of Dover off Rt. 800 in Tuscarawas County, the dam was identified by the USACE as a top priority for safety work. A contract for the next phase of work at the dam is expected to be awarded later this year and the total estimated cost of the project is $68.5 million, with the MWCD’s local cost share estimated at $2.4 million.


“Our commitment is to the safety of the residents of the watershed and the continued safe and effective performance of the dams,” Peterson said during his testimony before the Court. “We have a strong relationship with the MWCD and together we will work to maintain the operations of these projects.”


The Conservancy Court, which consists of one common pleas court judge from each of the 18 counties in the MWCD region, has jurisdiction over the MWCD as a court of common pleas.


The USACE projects that contracts are expected to be awarded in 2013 for the work at Bolivar Dam in Stark and Tuscarawas counties, in 2015 at Mohawk Dam in Coshocton County, and in 2016 for both Beach City Dam in Stark and Tuscarawas counties and Zoar Levee in Tuscarawas County.


Peterson also said that other opportunities exist for the USACE and MWCD to partner on programs and projects to improve the performance of the system of reservoirs and dams. To date, the system has prevented nearly $10 billion worth of potential damage from flooding and saved countless lives. The USACE owns the dams and the MWCD manages a significant amount of the reservoirs behind the dams.


In another matter, the Court approved the reactivation of the Black Fork Subdistrict of the MWCD located primarily in northeast Richland County and a two-year period for the MWCD and subdistrict area communities to develop a plan to address flooding issues. Officials from the City of Shelby in Richland County recently requested reactivation of the subdistrict to reduce the effects of flooding of the Black Fork of the Mohican River that have plagued the city and region for several decades.


The MWCD, with assistance from the Flood Plain Management Commission in Shelby and others, will begin to prepare a plan that will detail the causes of flooding in the Black Fork Watershed, the potential projects to reduce the flooding and the benefits that will be developed for property owners and residents through the activation of the plan.


The Black Fork Subdistrict originally was organized in 1959 to develop water resources for the region, but because of a lack of activity, the MWCD deactivated it several years later.


The Black Fork is controlled by Charles Mill Dam and Reservoir located just off I-71 and Rt. 30 near Mansfield in Ashland and Richland counties. However, the city of Shelby is located northwest, or above, the dam. Water also flows slowly from Shelby through the Black Fork to Charles Mill Dam because of a small drop in elevation, which can add to potential flooding problems in the Shelby area.


The Ohio law dealing with conservancy districts permits separate subdistricts to function with the conservancy district serving as the business agent for the subdistrict. The MWCD has one active subdistrict operating within it, the Chippewa Subdistrict in portions of northern Wayne and southern Medina counties. That subdistrict, formed in the 1960s, enacted a plan that led to the construction of eight small dams and 33 miles of channel improvements along the Chippewa Creek to reduce the effects of flooding in that watershed.


In other items presented to the Court:


The judges approved the 2010 Annual Report of Operations of the MWCD. The report, which contains information about the MWCD’s financial records and operations for the year 2010, is compiled and submitted each year according to Ohio law. It also is available on the MWCD’s website at


The judges confirmed the subsequent appraisal record of the MWCD that identifies properties in the MWCD region that were not included in the original appraisal record approved a few years ago or properties that did not receive the appropriate appraisal of benefits from the operation of the reservoirs and dams. The appraisal record is used to identify the assessments paid by property owners for maintenance of the reservoirs and dams in the Muskingum River Watershed. Individual property assessment information is available on the MWCD website.


The judges agreed to host individual update hearings from the MWCD in open court in their home counties each spring. Sessions will be designed to provide a brief review of events by the MWCD and to answer questions by the Court judges.


The judges agreed to host their next full Court session on June 2, 2012, in the Tuscarawas County Courthouse at New Philadelphia.


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


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