Just over a year ago, the $100 million project to repair the crumbling earthen dam at Buckeye Lake was finished two years early. But the state is looking at dozens of the 1420 dams in Ohio that could be failing.
The state says 124 dams are in poor or unsatisfactory condition.
ODNR Director Mary Mertz says her agency is working its way through the list, but there aren’t any emergencies like Buckeye Lake’s dam on it.
“No, not that I’m concerned about that we’re going to wake up tomorrow and see a big dam breach," Mertz said.
The 180-year-old Buckeye Lake dam was considered in danger of imminent failure, with 3,000 people at risk if it breached. The water level was deliberately kept shallow as repairs began in March 2015, which angered residents and businesses along the lake. The project was finished in November 2018, two years before it was estimated to be completed and $40 million under budget.
The current problems aren't just with state and government owned dams. Most US dams are privately owned. So that presents a different challenge, said Mertz.
“We’ve been working pretty assertively with the Attorney General’s office when a dam owner is not in compliance to take action to really make sure that they do what needs to be done," Mertz said.
An AP investigation says Ohio has the fifth highest number of dams in bad shape among the 45 states that complied with its public records requests. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates it would take $70 billion to fix compromised and potentially unsafe dams across the country.