ZOAR, Ohio — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided against destroying or moving an Ohio village where the aging levee protecting it from flooding is in serious need of repairs.
That brings some relief for residents in Zoar, about 65 miles south of Cleveland.
Instead of relocating or flooding the nearly 200-year-old community in Tuscarawas County, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to focus on options to shore up the levee, aiming for a solution to reduce the flooding risk and alleviate the local need for flood insurance, corps planner Aaron Smith told The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.
The village founded in 1817 by German religious dissenters seeking religious freedom has been protected by a 75-year-old levee from water that backs up behind the Tuscarawas River's Dover Dam. Floodwaters over the years have led to water seepage under the earthen structure that stretches along the edges of Zoar, and the levee is deteriorating.
A study finished in October reduced officials' concerns about the risks the levee poses for the public, and the findings should be ready within a year, Smith said. He said the agency then will pursue funding for a fix.
The study classifies the levee with a lower, less urgent level of risk than a previous assessment, The Times-Reporter in nearby New Philadelphia reported.
Zoar residents learned of the decision in late November at a meeting with corps officials, according to The Times-Reporter.
"To know that historic Zoar Village will no longer be threatened with being torn down but will remain intact for future generations to utilize and enjoy is great news," Mayor Larry Bell said, according to the newspaper.
Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs, who chairs the House Transportation subcommittee that oversees the Army Corps and helped bring it to the attention of top corps leaders, praised the agency for listening to the community's concerns.
"Zoar is a treasure to Ohio and the nation, it is important that the town is able to continue to tell the story of its historic past," he told The Plain Dealer.