ZOAR, Ohio - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' commanding general said a visit to an Ohio village has put its troubled, decades-old levee on his radar.
Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick visited Zoar this week as a guest of U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, according to The Times-Reporter newspaper in the nearby Dover/New Philadelphia area. Gibbs, a Republican from Lakeville, has advocated for the historic village and leads a House subcommittee with oversight of Bostick's agency.
A flood in 2008 exposed problems with the levee, and the corps has spent about $4.5 million on it and is studying options for its future. That could mean repairs, moving the village to higher ground or allowing it to flood.
Rodney Cremeans, project manager for the Huntington District, told Bostick the timeline for the corps' study is aggressive, with a target date around March 2016.
Zoar, which was founded in 1817 by religious separatists, was named by The National Trust for Historic Preservation on its 2012 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Supporters saw that as a step toward saving the nearly 200-year-old community.
Residents also have had help from Ohio's two U.S. senators, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown, who pushed legislation to help preserve the village's historic integrity.
"This town has made its name known at all levels," Bostick said. "It's a credit to people locally."
Cremeans said residents' frustration is understandable.
"They have the looming uncertainty of what's going to happen here," Cremeans said.
Bostick was joined by another high-ranking corps official, regional division commander Brig. Gen. Margaret Burcham, who took a similar tour in Zoar last summer.
"It's great to have them here," Mayor Larry Bell said. "Now he understands on a more personal level the situation here."