Stark County homeowners plan to use boats as flood waters continue to rise

STARK COUNTY, Ohio - For residents along Deuber Avenue SW in southern Stark County the only way to get to and from their homes is either by boat or hiking through thick muddy woods around their homes.

Near historic water levels at the nearby Bolivar Dam has forced water to rise on their street, blocking driveways and leaving homeowners isolated.

"Boliver is at near record. Atwood is up significantly. It's getting where there is a lot of water held behind it and that's all to control water at Dover and points south so the dams are doing what they are supposed to do, holding the water back from flooding people downstream," said Stark County EMA Director Tim Warstler.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is slowly releasing water from the Bolivar Dam but even communities and roads downstream are experiencing flooding.

Fox 8 encountered flooding at the Wilkshire Golf Course along the Tuscarawas River in Bolivar.

Roads are closed because of flooding in nearby Sandy Township and Mineral City where several residents are also isolated from their driveways by water as high as stop signs.

In Pike Township people along Deuber Avenue have been flooded before, but they say it has not been this bad since 2005 when the water level at the Bolivar Dam reached a historic record high.

Many residents have "escape plans" with boats or by parking their cars on high spots at other roads nearby that they can get to by hiking as much as three-quarters of a mile through the woods.

"This has been since 1991, said Mike Divincenzo, who has lived on Deuber for 15 years and may not be able to leave his home for weeks unless he makes the hike through the woods.

"People around here, we are all elderly we are not young spring chickens," said Divincenzo, adding "If something happens what are you going to do? You are going to let people die because of this?"

"I talked with the fire chief this morning from East Sparta. They have actually made plans to meet one of their older residents and bring her out to meet a family member. They are going to take a boat in and get her out so she could go to a doctors appointment and then they will pick her up and get her back home. They have helped a couple of residents with groceries and things like that," said Warstler.

But getting to the homes in the case of an emergency would be challenging.

As of late Tuesday water was still being gradually released from the Bolivar Dam and although streets have been flooded and the Tuscarawas River and its tributaries are lapping at their banks there are no reports of any flooding of homes or buildings.

Divincenzo is critical of the Corps of Engineers for their plan sacrificing his community at the sake of others, but the Stark County Engineer and the Emergency Management Director say with this much water there is no way to attempt to control it without someone getting flooded.

"Intentionally opening this to allow access for these people would just cause flooding and additional isolation downstream so that is the problem even if you get rid of it here you just create it someplace else," said Warstler.