National Trust for Historic Preservation Applauds Village of Zoar Report Findings

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Decision Eliminates Consideration of Destructive Alternatives for the National Treasure

Yesterday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the findings from their Baseline Risk Assessment for the Zoar Levee and Diversion Dam in Zoar, Ohio and three options that would have had devastating impact for the historic Village of Zoar – inundation, relocation, and/or removal of the levee – are no longer being considered by the Army Corps.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation applauds this news, which eliminates a significant threat to the 19th century German settlement named a National Treasure in 2011.

“We are gratified to learn that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has dropped consideration of a plan to remove the levee that protects the historic Village of Zoar,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Zoar is a national treasure, a unique and beloved place that tells important stories of immigration and utopian visions for the New World that resonate today as much as they did in the 1800s. We applaud the Army Corps for their willingness to take these historic and cultural values into account, as these values help draw thousands of visitors annually and contribute to the economic vitality of Northeast Ohio. We are grateful for our partnership with the Corps on this work. We are also grateful for the efforts of the Village of Zoar, the Zoar Community Association, and the Ohio Historical Society, and for the thousands of preservationists nationwide who voiced their support.”

The Village of Zoar’s mayor, Larry Bell, echoed that sentiment, saying, “To know that Historic Zoar Village will remain intact for future generations is great news. On behalf of the Village of Zoar, I want to thank the thousands of people who have contacted the Corps in support of saving our historic community. The National Trust for Historic Preservation designated Historic Zoar a National Treasure, which elevated our campaign to the national level and gave us a prominence that was needed. The Ohio Historic Society, the Ohio Preservation Office, Heritage Ohio, the Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition, and others also gave support. I also want to thank all our county, state, and federal elected officials who supported saving Historic Zoar, especially Congressman Bob Gibbs for his tremendous effort.”

In making their assessment of the levee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers evaluated Zoar’s historic and cultural value, and received over 2,000 public comments in support of saving the Village of Zoar. “The Corps of Engineers is very appreciative of all the stakeholder and public input we received on the project. It helped us them greatly in completing the risk assessment, and we look forward to continued participation by all interested parties in the study.” Aaron Smith, Lead Planner, US Army Corps of Engineers.

The Baseline Risk Assessment re-classified the levee from the most at-risk for failure to a mid-level risk. Because the levee and diversion dam still have performance issues, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to continue to assess the project and plan for repairs, but will streamline the remainder of the study and complete it within one year. 

Background on the Village of Zoar:
Founded by German immigrants in 1817, the Village of Zoar is both a functioning community – it continues to be home to just under 200 residents – and a dynamic historic site that attracts thousands of visitors annually, telling the story of immigration to the United States and illustrating the history of settlement throughout this region of the country.

The Village of Zoar is protected from floodwaters along the Tuscarawas River by a levee built in the 1930s. Record floods in 2005, however, raised concern about the levee’s integrity, leading the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a multi-year study to assess the levee’s future. One of many alternatives that had been under consideration is removing the levee entirely, which would have require the relocation or demolition of 80 percent of this remarkable historic village.

Background on National Treasures:
The National Trust for Historic Preservation mobilizes its more than 60 years of expertise and resources to protect a growing portfolio of National Treasures that are threatened buildings; neighborhoods, communities, and landscapes that stand at risk across the country. Our National Treasures program demonstrates the value of preservation by taking direct action to protect these places and promote their history and significance.



The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places., @SavingPlaces