The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) was organized for two primary purposes - to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and provide water for public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed.
The plan that was developed to accomplish these goals was the construction of a system of lakes and dams. The dams, which are owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), control the flow of water into the Muskingum River.
The lakes impound water and work in tandem with the dams for storage of floodwaters and conservation of floodwaters for beneficial uses.
Each of the 14 MWCD lakes drain to the Muskingum River, which was the namesake for the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. The 10 permanent lakes are Atwood, Beach City, Charles Mill, Clendening, Leesville, Piedmont, Pleasant Hill, Seneca, Tappan, and Wills Creek. Bolivar, Dover, Mohawk, and Mohicanville dams impound water only in times of high water and are commonly identified as "dry dams."
The MWCD manages much of the lake areas, which are the areas behind the dams where easements were acquired to store water as necessary for the safe release downstream. This includes areas beyond the permanent lakes.
Two additional dams and lakes - Dillon near Zanesville in Muskingum County and North Branch Kokosing near Fredericktown in Knox County - were constructed after the original 14 by the USACE as part of the flood-reduction system. The USACE manages both of these projects exclusively.