State: No sign of low Buckeye Lake hurting unusual Ohio bog

In this Oct. 13, 2015, photo, liquid in a carnivorous pitcher plant reflects the gray sky overhead at Cranberry Bog, an unusual nature preserve in central Ohio's Buckeye Lake. State officials checking on the condition of the plants and the bog say there is no indication so far of harm from the surrounding lake being kept low while a deteriorated dam is replaced. (AP Photo/Kantele Franko)
In this Oct. 13, 2015, photo, liquid in a carnivorous pitcher plant reflects the gray sky overhead at Cranberry Bog, an unusual nature preserve in central Ohio's Buckeye Lake. State officials checking on the condition of the plants and the bog say there is no indication so far of harm from the surrounding lake being kept low while a deteriorated dam is replaced. (AP Photo/Kantele Franko)

ON CRANBERRY BOG, Ohio (AP) – The unusual, shrinking bog in central Ohio’s Buckeye Lake doesn’t appear to be harmed by the surrounding water being kept low while a deteriorated dam is replaced, according to state Department of Natural Resources staff.

Visiting Cranberry Bog this week, the chief botanist for Ohio’s nature preserves, Rick Gardner, found the namesake plants healthy and the moss, on which the bog is based, moist and green. Carnivorous pitcher plants poked up in clusters of faded red, and trees shook off gold and orange leaves in a stiff autumn breeze.

Jeff Johnson, the department’s administrator for natural areas, hopped in place a few times and grinned as the ground wavered and water squished around his boots with each bounce.

“It’s right at the surface of the bog, which is a good thing,” Johnson said. “This is what we would see pretty much in a normal year.”

They had to arrive by canoe because the depth in some parts of the lake was less than 2 feet – maybe one-third of the typical summer levels – and logs jutted out from shallow water around the oblong bog.

They hadn’t been sure how low water might affect the fragile, roughly 10-acre bog, which has been shrinking for decades as the lake and waves encourage natural decomposition. They’d worried it might stick out far above the water if it couldn’t compress to the lower level, but the difference appeared to be only a few inches, Johnson said.

They also hoped the lack of encroaching freshwater would encourage the internal acidity that helps the bog thrive. They plan testing next summer to check on that.

The restricted-access bog, owned by the state and managed by the Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society, is a remnant of glacial movement thousands of years ago. When the 4.1-mile earthen dam was built in the 1830s to create a reservoir, the bog mat rose and became surrounded by the water – the opposite of what usually happens. It’s designated as a National Natural Landmark, and the National Park Service has expressed interest in its conservation.

J-me Braig, who runs the historical society, said she’s glad the bog seems to be in good health, but still has concerns after just one low-water summer. She wonders about the effects of the bog being compressed long-term, instead of expanding each summer as usual, and the possibility of trees rooting in the lake bottom and pulling back the bog mat when the water rises again.

“It’s not going to die,” she said. “It’s just a matter of how much it can take, how much shock it can take, until the water allows it to float back up.”

Exactly when that might be isn’t clear. The state is expected to take years to replace the nearly 180-year-old dam, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded is at risk of failing.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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