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Buckeye Lake Construction Finishes Ahead Of Schedule

Buckeye Lake, with its newly reinforced earthen dam. The dam, which falls between the sidewalk and the water, was strengthened. Crews also put more space between homes and the shoreline.

The replacement for the Buckeye Lake dam, which had deteriorated to the point where authorities said it was at risk of failure, has officially opened.

State officials deemed reconstruction of the dam east of Columbus necessary after a 2015 report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed the nearly 200-year-old earthen dam was at risk of failing. Authorities concluded that several hundred homes, docks and other structures built into the original dam had weakened it.

Republican Gov. John Kasich and other elected officials attended the ribbon cutting for the new 4.1-mile structure on Thursday. 

Kasich had approved $150 million in funding for the reconstruction. Officials said Thursday that the project was completed two years earlier than anticipated and came in at a cost of about $107 million.

The reopening came as a victory for Kasich, whotook criticism from local business owners weary of a drop in local tourism.

“If you know a dam could break and many, many, people would die and you decide to fix the dam, does that take political courage? I think it takes common sense,” Kasich said.

The decision to rebuild was not as easy to swallow for local officials, like Fairfield County Commissioner David Levacy.

“There’s sometimes tough decisions that have to be made, and this was a tough one,” Levacy said.

Project officials say the stronger dam should last for another century, while local eaders say they're already seeing property values rise.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.