History worth saving: Public meeting held on Zoar Levee project

History worth saving: Public meeting held on Zoar Levee project
Teri Stein

Outgoing project director Rebecca Bennett, standing, answers a question while new project director Greg Jones, right, looks on.


A problem first recognized in 2008 is closer to a resolution after a public meeting was held on the Zoar Levee Dam Safety Modification Project on April 24 at the Schoolhouse in Zoar.

Officials including outgoing project manager Rebecca Bennett; Seth Lyle, lead engineer for the project; and Nathan White, archaeologist from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Huntington District, conducted the meeting. Bennett also introduced Greg Jones, the incoming project manager. Copies of the meeting presentation were given to each person in attendance.

The levee protects the low-lying areas of Zoar from flood waters held back by the Dover Dam. During times of flooding, the levee is susceptible to under seepage, which is the main concern addressed by the plan. Officials said the levee itself is well constructed.

The main solution to the problem will be the installation of an Internal Erosion Interception Trench on the village side of the levee. The IEIT is made of a non-erodible material and will stop the under seepage, a process that would eventually erode and undermine the levee, from coming up on the inside of the levee.

A reverse filter will be installed at the Pump Station Ponding Area to trap soil from coming into the pond from under seepage while allowing water through. Soils in the pond will be excavated to a depth of 4 feet before the two-stage granular filter with overlying stone armoring is installed.

The total cost of the project is approximately $13.2 million with the federal government providing $10 million and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District providing $3 million.

Bennett announced the contract between the MWCD, the project sponsor, and Army Corp of Engineers Huntington is scheduled to be signed in September. This will allow officials to award the first project contract in December, which will address the seepage at pond. The contract for the larger project at the levee will be awarded in September 2020.

At the meeting officials spoke on some of the preliminary work that was completed over the winter including exploratory drilling and laboratory testing of soil samples from the site of the levee. Nine borings were drilled along the interior levee toe, and three borings were drilled adjacent to the pump station ponding area.

An archaeological survey of Zoar is scheduled to begin in early May and will include a geophysical survey, shovel testing and limited trenching. A report of the findings of this survey will be submitted after its completion for review and comments. Archaeologist Nathan White said any artifacts they recover could be loaned to the village for display if they can provide a safe place to house them.

Training for Zoar docents on the project also will be provided before construction begins so they would be able to answer any questions posed by tourists to the area.

Zoar Mayor Scott Gordon commended officials from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for being “very open to keeping people informed. It will eliminate problems down the road.”

Problems caused by vibrations are one of the biggest issues for Gordon, who said an incident four years ago from the vibration of a cannon used by re-enactors caused some of the old plaster walls around town to crack.

David Irwin, a village council member at Zoar, commented on the amount of interest and support for protecting the village. “Zoar is such a unique historical area that it brought everyone out of the woods,” he said.

The planning and input process is ongoing and involves the public throughout the project to minimize disruptions, especially to the popular festivals that are held at Zoar each year. “We want to get this job done, but we don’t want to get in your way,” White said.

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