- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

BUCKEYE LAKE, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources continues to implement new policies at Buckeye Lake, where federal officials have warned a deteriorating dam could fail.

The department announced Friday it will implement a speed zone on the western portion of the central Ohio lake, with boaters allowed to navigate the water at greater than idle speed.

ODNR has been dredging for the past two weeks to create the speed zone channel.

The zone will be in effect from sunrise to sunset. The rest of the lake will be treated as a no wake zone. Due to safety concerns, skiing, wakeboarding and tubing have been banned, ODNR said.

Some residents and business owners aren’t sure the speed zone for boaters will make much of a difference. Tim Figgins, who owns a boat rental service on the lake, told The Advocate in Newark (https://ohne.ws/1G1joB3 ) that it’s hard to know how low water levels will affect the boating economy.

“You can build a beautiful exit ramp off of a vacated freeway, but there is still not going to be anyone on the road,” he said.

The boating rules follow new construction and dock policies announced this week. No new docks, boatlifts or other equipment will be permitted on the earthen dam without express approval, ODNR wrote in a letter sent to Buckeye Lake residents April 14. Additionally, new construction of homes, patios, pools and sidewalks won’t be allowed without a proper permit.

ODNR Director James Zehringer said in Friday’s statement that he wants to remind everyone the lake is still open for business despite the ongoing changes there.

“Making these improvements gives us a new opportunity to promote recreational activities such as kayaking and paddling on the lake while investing more in the health and future of the region,” he said.

A recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report concluded there’s a high risk of failure at the lake’s earthen dam. The report says such a failure could put 3,000 lives at risk.

Gov. John Kasich has said that Ohio will replace the dam. In the meantime, the lake is being kept at winter levels of about 3 feet, roughly half the typical summer depth.

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