Local officials in Washington on lobbying trip

By JOY BROWN
STAFF WRITER
Mayor Lydia Mihalik, Hancock County Commissioner Brian Robertson and Findlay-Hancock County Alliance Economic Development Director Tony Iriti flew to Washington, D.C., on Monday to lobby the Army Corps of Engineers and congressional members for more flood-study funding.
The corps has some money available to complete ongoing studies, and the lobbyists want the agency to spend $1.5 million on finishing a regional flood-control study of the Blanchard River and its tributaries, Mihalik said.
Hancock County and the corps are supposed to be sharing the cost of the study. While lobbying of the corps continues, the Hancock County commissioners are paying for the study’s final phase, a $3 million environmental review, with money from the county’s $10 million flood fund.
Whether the corps will put money into any ongoing study hinges on certain criteria, particularly economic enhancement. Regional officials think the Blanchard River study qualifies, the mayor said.
The corps has told congressional leaders it is looking at funding studies that “could lead to projects with significant economic benefits, particularly by increasing national competitiveness through marine transportation improvements and by avoiding damages caused by flooding and coastal storms,” it said.
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, along with U.S. Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined forces long ago to support regional flood-control efforts. They’ve sent several letters to corps leaders, the latest on Jan. 27, urging continued funding of the Blanchard River study, using money from recent legislation that increased corps funding by 10 percent over fiscal year 2013.
The regional delegation’s tentative agenda in Washington is expected to begin with a meeting this morning with those who have ties to the Senate’s Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, and end Wednesday afternoon with a visit to the subcommittee chair, Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio. The trip will have the three traversing the nation’s capital, from the Pentagon to offices on Capitol Hill.
Brown: 419-427-8496
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