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Dredging Speeds Up To Help Boaters on Buckeye Lake

Posted on June 14, 2016

By Mary Beth Lane, The Columbus Dispatch

As business owners and residents wait for Buckeye Lake to reach a depth closer to its summer normal, dredges are removing silt to help boats navigate.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources traditionally removes lake-bottom muck annually with one dredge. This year, however, three state dredges are plying lake channels under a more aggressive schedule. The department just added a privately-owned dredge.

Officials kept the lake shallow last year and off-limits to most boating as a safety precaution pending dam construction. No boats meant lost sales for lakefront businesses.

Department Director James Zehringer announced on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend that successful completion of the project’s first phase — a stability berm and a seepage barrier — allowed for the closure of the spillway gates so the lake could start refilling to one foot below the normal summer level, or about five feet, while the rest of the dam project proceeds.

Rainfall will refill the lake, but the level has not changed appreciably since then, officials said.

Meanwhile, diesel-fueled dredges are cutting their way through the bottom muck, clearing navigation channels to help boats reach the bars, restaurants and other waterfront businesses that depend on boating traffic. The dredges also are clearing channels to the Buckeye Lake islands that are occupied by 23 homes, providing navigation not just for the homeowners but for emergency crews.

The dredging comes as the state continues work on the $100-million-plus dam project, which is scheduled for completion in 2019. The shallow water and increased silt have impeded boating, and the goal now is to get back to normal as soon as possible, said department spokesman John Wisse.

Each dredge front has a spinning cutter head whose big, industrial teeth chew into the lake bottom and stir up the silt, which is then sucked into a pipe. Out it goes, from the back end of the dredge, pumped into a plastic pipeline that is 6 inches around and stretches up to a mile long. The pipeline discharges the muddy gush into large earthen bowls dug on the shore. The sediment gradually sinks to the bottom, and the cleaner water flows through a gated opening back into the lake.

Eventually, the sediment-filled bowls will dry out and be planted with grass and will return to the state park landscape.

Grass Groomers, a Reynoldsburg company that the department has hired for $49,000, has been assigned to use its smaller dredge to dig out the channel to Buckeye Lake Marina. The smaller dredge fits better in that channel, and is needed while the larger state dredges work elsewhere on the lake, said department spokesman Eric Heis.

The owner of John Doneff’s Island House is happy with the dredging, but remains worried about summer business.

“Dredging certainly helps our businesses and the boating public,” Doneff said. But until the lake refills sufficiently for normal boat traffic, business will lag, he said.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

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