AP NEWS

Judge halts unapproved construction at eastern Ohio dam

January 4, 2020 GMT

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio (AP) — A judge temporarily halted construction work at a high-hazard Ohio dam this week after state inspectors determined the structure wasn’t safe.

Common Pleas Judge Edward O’Farrell issued the order Thursday against the owner of the Sleepy Hollow Lake Dam in Tuscarawas County. The order prohibits further construction at the site without approval of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Water Resources.

Sleepy Hollow Lake Dam was among more than 100 dams in Ohio rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition and classified as “high hazard” because lives could be lost if the dams fail. An Associated Press analysis published in November found Ohio has the fifth-highest number of high-hazard dams among the 45 states and Puerto Rico that complied with public records requests from the AP.

A Dec. 23 safety inspection noted the dam had active construction underway that had not been properly approved. Work included excavation along the dam’s spillway that inspectors determined could cause a structural failure and construction of a new spillway they said risked erosion and failure due to an unfinished concrete base.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who represents the Department of Natural Resources in the case, said what dam owner Philip Dixon and his company, Dixon Real Estate Holdings LLC, were doing was illegal and “just plain dangerous.”

“My office and our partners at the Department of Natural Resources won’t allow this guy to gamble with the public’s safety,” Yost said in a statement.

Messages seeking comment were left at Dixon’s office and with his attorney, Rick Hinig, on Friday.

Besides requiring future construction approvals, O’Farrell’s order also requires Dixon to keep the reservoir’s water level below its drainpipe until hazards are addressed and requires him to fill excavated holes within eight days. Dixon also was ordered to finish or block off the incomplete spillway within 12 days.