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Buckeye Lake Dam Improvements

Innovative design and accelerated delivery protect a Class I high-hazard-potential dam from catastrophic failure.
  • Aerial view of lake showing embankment and new wall construction - Gannett Fleming.

    Completion of the rebuilt dam allowed a return to summer pool elevation, boosting the area economy.

  • Aerial view of a stability berm with the lake on one side and the existing dam on the other - Gannett Fleming.

    A 4.1-mile-long berm helps protect the lives of 3,000 downstream residents and some 2,100 structures.

  • A huge trenching machine digs a cutoff wall trench while simultaneously injecting a slurry - Gannett Fleming.

    Deep soil mix construction of a cutoff wall creates a barrier to prevent seepage through the dam.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Michael Baker International

Fairfield, Licking, and Perry Counties, Ohio

Our Role
Design, Construction Management.

4.1 miles
Construction Cost
$107 million
New Construction
3 years
  • Upgrades bring dam into compliance with dam safety requirements
  • Return to full lake depth supports boating and fishing to revitalize the economy
  • CMAR delivery and aggressive schedule shortened project timeline by two years.

In 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a grave warning about the stability of the Buckeye Lake Dam in central Ohio. The 4.1-mile-long Class I high-hazard-potential earthen embankment, more than 180 years old, did not meet dam safety requirements and was at risk of catastrophic failure. Dam failure would endanger an estimated 3,000 lives downstream of the dam and threaten 2,100 homes and businesses. In response, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) lowered the lake’s water level by 3 feet to winter pool level, reducing the risk of collapse, and sought ways to upgrade the dam as quickly as possible.

ODNR engaged Gannett Fleming to design interim risk reduction measures (IRRM) to protect the community. Gannett Fleming’s innovative solutions included an embankment stability berm, upstream of the dam, to preserve its integrity and a deep soil mix cutoff wall to stop seepage through the embankment. The team placed the IRRMs in eight months—almost a year ahead of schedule—using fast-tracked construction manager at risk (CMAR) delivery. Successful installation allowed ODNR to raise the lake’s water level to a foot below normal, boosting area businesses that depend on boating, fishing, and tourism. Our firm also served as lead designer for the dam rebuild that provides up to 100 years of protection from dam failure.

What We Did

The stability berm not only protects the existing embankment, but also created a platform for workers to construct the cutoff wall. The 30-foot-wide berm runs the length of the dam and consists of approximately 400,000 cubic yards of granular fill. To build the wall, workers dug a trench 42 feet deep in the center of the berm along its entire length, while simultaneously injecting a slurry that formed a belowground barrier. This deep soil mixing method created an effective wall and minimized the risk of damage to adjacent homes during construction.

For the project’s second phase, the team designed a new buttress wall between the cutoff wall and the old dam face, to provide long-term protection against dam failure. Deep soil mixing was used to construct the wall, which runs the full length of the embankment. The top of the new dam was clad in concrete and topped with grass and a paved path to create a lakeside promenade and offer vehicle access for inspections. The new dam allowed ODNR to return water levels to normal, shoring up the area’s economy, and providing long-lasting protection for Buckeye Lake that meets dam safety requirements and community expectations.

Key Features

  • 30-foot-wide stability berm protects the existing dam embankment and facilitated construction of the deep soil mix cutoff wall.
  • 24-inch-wide deep soil mix cutoff wall extends 42 feet belowground to stop seepage and preserve dam integrity.
  • New 4.1-mile-long buttress wall has design life of up to 100 years.
  • Paved path on top of new dam offers vehicle access for future dam maintenance and repair.

Awards & Recognition

  • National Rehabilitation Project of the Year, 2019, Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) Annual Awards

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