By JOY BROWN
A plan to return a small portion of Lye Creek in Findlay to a more natural state was modified Thursday after residents expressed concerns about the effect on flooding, maintenance, and what some perceived as an intrusion of big government.
It was decided a grant application would be submitted to build a riparian buffer on the west side of the creek, rather than on both sides.
The original proposal was to grow native vegetation on 66,000 square feet of flood-prone land owned by the city and Hancock County to the east and west of the creek. The idea was controversial when it was introduced last summer. Back then, nearby residents also wondered about such a buffer attracting nuisance wildlife.
The project would be paid for with a $92,000 grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Fund, which seeks to improve water quality in the region.
Phil Martin, watershed coordinator of the Blanchard River Watershed Partnership, the agency that will seek the grant and would be overseeing the project, said the buffer, along with providing better habitat for existing wildlife, would also absorb more water and slow the speed of creek floodwater. But it would not help prevent flooding, he said.
The grass-covered land in question now sits vacant. The city keeps it mowed.
But some at Thursday’s meeting weren’t convinced.
One man wondered if planting trees, shrubs and grass wouldn’t affect flooding, and noted the Federal Emergency Management Agency won’t even allow a fence post to be erected there for flooding reasons.
Questions were also raised about the riparian corridor serving as a debris-catcher, with garbage getting tangled there and fallen limbs from mature trees clogging the creek.
And some were worried about big government.
“This is not conspiracy talk, so no eye-rolling is needed here. But you’re talking about two very powerful agencies being involved — the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said one woman. She said the agencies “are working together to get power over all the wetlands from the shallowest of ditches to the deepest of waterways.”
Findlay Safety-Service Director Paul Schmelzer recommended that residents simply base their opinions about the proposal on how they’d like that area to look.
Out of approximately 20 people who attended the meeting, half raised their hands when asked if they lived within a block of the buffer area. Six said they favored a buffer being built on the west side of Lye Creek first so that they can see what it will look like before determining whether they would favor it on their side of the creek, which is more populated.
Martin said he’d contact the EPA today about that idea and its effect on available grant money.
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