Pike County lake still draining despite $32 million in renovations

Since June, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has been manually lowering water levels in the lake. It's part of a plan by officials to determine why the lake can't maintain water levels. (WSYX/WTTE)

Lake White has been a popular destination for visitors and residents in Pike County for generations. Tuesday, it's future and the safety of its dam system remain unclear.

Since June, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has been manually lowering water levels in the lake. It's part of a plan by officials to determine why the lake can't maintain water levels.

On Tuesday evening, concerned residents packed into a town hall forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce to listen to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Transportation to get answers.

"It does have a graveyard atmosphere to it. I can definitely tell you that," said Tom Osborne who's lake-front property is now nearly drained out completely.

Osborne was one of many people who went to the meeting in hopes of getting more information.

Despite $32 million in road, bridge and dam upgrades, state officials said they still haven't found a concentrated area of falling lake levels. They have discovered seepage and eroding soil in wetlands below the south end of the 80-year-old dam, according to spokespersons.

Now, plans are in the works to construct a sand berm to prevent dam erosion.

"There's lots of work to be done and frustrations to be had," said Paul Price, an attorney for Lake White homeowners, and member of the the Pike County Chamber of Commerce.

ODNR officials said they believe the dam is safe at Lake White as long as water levels are kept below what they'd normally be during the summer.

"We found there was an unusual amount of movement in the water, and we continue to investigate why that's happening," said Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Tom Wisse.

Wisse added there's no timetable for how long or how much it would cost to construct the sand berm. Project spokespersons said they'll be keeping a particularly close eye on water levels this winter.

They said if there's a large amount of snow and ice, emergency plans are in place to drain the lake if needed. It's not known if water levels will be raised to their normal levels by summer 2018.

"This is a major loss for Pike County if we don't get a functioning lake back," said Lake White resident Christy Conkel.

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