The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces that a more comprehensive study is required prior to determining the potential life safety and environmental impacts of delaying the annual drawdown of Berlin Lake near Alliance, Ohio.
Members of the Berlin Lake community asked the Corps to hold summer lake levels, pointing to the potential economic benefits that an extended recreation season would yield.
The Corps’ preliminary assessment indicated that its authorized missions may be impacted by changing Berlin Lake’s approved water management plan.
By law, the Corps is directed to manage Berlin Lake to reduce the risk of flooding and to maintain water quality downstream of the dam.
An additional authority gives the Corps permission to provide boat ramps, picnic areas and other recreational facilities at the lake but does not give the Corps authority to hold water in the lake for recreational purposes.
A change to Berlin Lake’s approved water management plan requires a formal deviation informed by several factors to include environmental impacts, hydrology and hydraulics, operations, increased flood threat, in-lake and downstream water quality and dam safety.
Under the current water management plan, the operation of Berlin Lake has prevented an estimated $4.6 billion in today’s dollars in flood damages to downstream communities. It also helps to mitigate pollutants and maintain water quality by providing additional water to the Mahoning River.
“We certainly recognize that extending the recreation season would have an economic benefit, but we must make risk-informed decisions, especially when it comes to life safety and the welfare of the community,” said Col. Andrew J. Short, commander, Pittsburgh District. “We are committed to exploring solutions that will enhance economic opportunities in northeast Ohio while maintaining our flood risk management and water quality missions.”
Authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938 and completed in 1943, Berlin Lake is one of 16 federal flood risk management projects in the Upper Ohio River Basin, which forms Pittsburgh District boundaries. The project reduces the risk of flooding for the Mahoning River Valley as well as for the Beaver and upper Ohio rivers.
The project also provides communities downstream with a clean and dependable water supply and has helped to alleviate pollution problems along the Mahoning River Valley.
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