Judge Orders Dam Owner to Halt Construction, Address Dangers



(NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio) — A judge on Thursday ordered the owner of a Tuscarawas County dam to halt unapproved construction at the site after inspectors deemed the structure unsafe.

“This dam was already in rough shape, but now it’s just plain dangerous because of these illegal construction projects,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “My office and our partners at the Department of Natural Resources won’t allow this guy to gamble with the public’s safety.”

Yost’s office requested the temporary restraining order on behalf of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), saying unapproved modifications to the Sleepy Hollow Lake Dam by owner Philip Dixon and his company, Dixon Real Estate Holdings LLC, have created a public safety hazard.

The earthen dam, located off County Road 156 in Perry Township, is categorized as a Class I dam, meaning a sudden failure would result in the probable loss of life or the collapse of at least one home or business.

A safety inspection on Dec. 23 noted active construction at the dam that was never approved by the chief of ODNR’s Division of Water Resources. The unapproved projects included excavation along the dam’s spillway that could cause a structural failure and construction of a new spillway that risks erosion and failure due to an unfinished concrete base.

The order from Common Pleas Judge Edward O’Farrell prohibits further construction at the dam without approval and requires Dixon to keep the reservoir’s water level from rising above its drainpipe until the hazards are addressed. Dixon also must refill the excavated holes within eight days and finish or block off the incomplete spillway within 12 days.

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