Boaters, businesses hope to stay afloat on Buckeye Lake this summer

BUCKEYE LAKE, OH (WCMH)–Most of Buckeye Lake’s boats are off the water and in dry dock. The boat docks along the dam are all gone or separated from the shore by a new 30 foot-wide stability berm.

Neighbors and businesses said the impact of the water level being lowered has been substantial.

The Island House bar and restaurant, on Leeb’s Island, is one of those businesses impacted. Owner John Doneff has been there for 24 years and said his business is off more than 20 percent.

“We depend on boaters for a lot of our business and that has gone away,” he said.

“They put the gun to our head and we just have to hope they don’t pull the trigger,” Doneff said.

But he said it is not all doom and gloom. “I personally think in two or three years down the road we will all be better off than we were two or three years ago.”

Construction on the stability berm started in September of last year, and now circles 4.1 miles along the North Shore in place of the old dam.

Chamber President Tim Ryan has lived along that berm for 40 years. He said the construction has been nonstop and tough on neighboring homes just feet away.

“The noise and the dust and everything have been pretty brutal,” Ryan said. “My wife and I have moved downstairs to try and get some rest.” He showed NBC4 dust and concrete splatter on his patio.

Ryan said the construction on the first part of the berm finished at 7 p.m. Thursday, but now wonders about his boat dock.

“The big question the state has not answered is whether we are going to have our boat docks in front of our house,” Ryan said.

“Planning and discussion continues regarding how and when docks are to be removed, and who will be responsible,” according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Engineering Department Q & A on their web site.

ODNR oversees the project said on the site issues were unearthed with the old dam. Throughout this activity, extensive defects in the old dam embankment were discovered that had been previously hidden by various kinds of private structures and vegetation. These defects include, but are not limited to, large voids found in the dam embankment that are suspected to be caused by erosion, tree decay and utility penetrations.

According to the site, construction is on schedule to complete the cut-off wall in June. ODNR will close spillway gates to allow a natural, partial rise in the water level as soon as that can be done safely. ODNR’s decision will be made only with sign-off by the engineers working on the project. Public safety remains the primary consideration.

Julie Buckley said she and her husband have had their 32-foot cruising yacht sitting on a trailer for two years.

“We are trying to keep it in shape for whenever the lake will open again,” Buckley said. “It is very frustrating we have had so much fun on this and it has been absolutely wonderful and we miss that, we could take it to another lake, but we chose not to right now,” she said.

Ryan said two homes built on the lake just inside the old berm we bought and torn down by the state. He said the property where those homes sat was leased to the owners by the state.

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