In 2010, Commissioner Marshall approached me about serving on the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy Court. I was subsequently appointed by Judge Williams and Judge Boyer on Nov. 23, 2010, as Washington County's representative to the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District Court. We have not had a local judge representing Washington County on this court for the past few years. I have always maintained an interest in the work of this body. While our daughter was growing up, our family spent many summer days on their lakes and at their campgrounds. For the past few years the Frontier Hiking Club (of which I am a member) has enjoyed many of their hiking trails. We also live in the flood plain.
The court operates under the dictates of chapter 6101 of the Ohio Revised Code. It meets on the first Saturday of June each year in New Philadelphia, Ohio. The presiding judge is the Honorable Edward O'Farrel of the Tuscarawas County Court of Common Pleas. I worked with Judge O'Farrel 28 years ago when we were both in private practice. He is an intelligent person with a strong work ethic. There are 18 judges on the court. I know most of my fellow judges on this court. They are all dedicated jurists. When the court meets, the judges occupy the jury box. The court receives reports from members of the board of directors, the advisory board, the Army Corps of Engineers, other interested agencies and members of the public. Judges are permitted to ask questions.
The mission of your conservancy district is to be "responsible stewards dedicated to conservation, recreation and flood control in the Muskingum Watershed, striving to enhance quality of life in the region." The Muskingum River watershed is more than 8,000 square miles covering all or portions of 27 of Ohio's 88 counties. The Muskingum Conservancy District encompasses 20 percent of Ohio's land area. The district manages 14 reservoirs and lakes. It also manages over 54,000 acres of real property. Since 1939, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has had control of the district's dams. The district has 80 full-time employees and 300 part-time summer employees.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers has begun a multi-year project for the rehabilitation of our dams. The conservancy district is providing partial funding of the cost of the dam rehabilitation. The goal is to bring all dams back to their original capacity. In 2010, the first such project began at the Dover Dam, our only concrete dam. The total cost for this project will be $60 million. The district's part of the cost will exceed $2 million.
The district has conducted a joint study with The Ohio University of shoreline erosion, threats to water quality, and sedimentation buildup. The district has begun implementing the recommendations from this study. The district began 20 projects in 2010. More than 9,000 feet of shoreline improvements were made in 2010. The goal is to complete 20 to 30 projects each year here after. In 2010, some of the projects were close to or located in Washington County. In 2010, the district contributed $15,000 of the $40,000 spent to plug a leaking oil well on Cabin Run, a direct tributary to the Muskingum River in Morgan County. The district also contributed $4,053 for the required local cost-share match to enable the Washington County Soil and Water Conservation District to obtain a federal flood plan management education grant.
I made only one inquiry at the June 4 meeting of the court. The inquiry was a result of a request from Commissioner Marshall. I inquired of Colonel Peters, director of the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as to the status of the early flood warning system for the Duck Creek Valley. I was informed, that after several setbacks, funding has been secured and the system "should be in place and operation by December 2011 and no later than May 2010."
In 2010, the district closed its only lodge at Atwood Lake. The lodge lost a million dollars in each of its last two years of operation. Most of Ohio's state lodges lose money. If the lodge is not sold or leased within the next year the district will consider the permanent removal of this structure. In 2010, the district had assets of $28,379,643, revenues of $22,132,521 and debts of $6,475,930. The debt was a reduction from a 2009 indebtedness of $11,678,537.
In the coming year, the district will also be considering requests to develop the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations under its lands. Also, preparations are being made to commence numerous dredging projects.
Ed Lane is a Washington County Common Pleas judge.