ODNR spokesman says agency did no followup after issuing orders to fix Kinsman dam

By Ed Runyan



Though the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered the Kinsman Lakelands Association to hire an engineer to study the ability of Kinsman Lake and the association’s Kinsman Dam to hold back flood waters and to make certain repairs in 2016, it conducted no follow-up.

On Thursday, the agency provided The Vindicator with the report that told the association of its concerns that the lake and dam might not be prepared to withstand a reasonably large amount of floodwater that it called a “required design flood.”

But after Kinsman Township Trustee Greg Leonhard informed The Vindicator that the ODNR didn’t conduct any follow-up after issuing its findings in November 2016, the newspaper asked the ODNR if that’s true.

Eric Heis, ODNR spokesman, acknowledged Friday there was none.

His emailed response also suggested the reason was that the problems ODNR found didn’t threaten the “safety of life, health or property of others.” He also suggested that the large amount of rain the Kinsman area received is to blame for washing out part of the dam and cutting off Lakelands neighborhood residents from their only access road in and out of their homes.

“Though there were deficiencies noted with this dam [in 2016], it was not in danger of failure or actively failing when inspected, and it was not one of the [over 300] Class I dams in the state whose failure would result in the loss of life,” Heis said.

The Kinsman Lake Dam is a Class II dam, meaning failure of the structure would not likely cause loss of life. Heis said the ODNR “makes class I dams an enforcement priority.” Kinsman Township was notified of the dam’s deficiencies in 2016 because it maintains the road over the dam. The Trumbull County Engineer’s office was notified because it maintains the bridge over the dam, Heis said.

“It is our understanding that the county and township are also dealing with a number of other roads and bridges that were damaged upstream of this one, and in entirely other areas of the county,” Heis said, adding that all of the damage was “a result of this same significant rain event after a very wet spring and summer. It is assumed that these other structures were likewise not in a dangerous condition immediately before that big storm event.”

His remarks are similar to what Skip LaPlante, president of the Lakelands Neighborhood Association, said Thursday and Friday of the reason for the washout of part of the causeway.

“There were people in their 80s who have never seen anything like this,” Leonhard said ofthe July 21 rain, which measured about about 7 inches in 24 hours.

“I saw it. It had nothing to do with the dam,” LaPlante said. “The water was 100 times more than [the causeway and dam] could handle.”

“What happened had nothing to do with the spillway,” Leonhard said, adding: “If [the dam} was so bad, why didn’t the ODNR follow it up?”