By DENISE GRANT
The Hancock County commissioners have more incentive to keep pushing toward a final flood-control plan for the Blanchard River: the possibility of conservancy district help.
The Maumee Watershed Conservancy Court, which oversees the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, continues to show interest in the project.
The conservancy court, comprised of 15 area common pleas court judges, gathered Friday for their annual meeting. The meeting was held at the Defiance County Courthouse.
Hancock County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Niemeyer, a member of the panel, said the Army Corps of Engineers updated the court on the Blanchard River project. It is the third year for such an update, he said.
“We’re all watching and waiting for their plan,” Niemeyer said.
Niemeyer said once the corps’ flood-control plan is completed, conservancy district officials will review it, and if appropriate, make a recommendation to the court.
Hancock County officials have said they would like to hand off the Blanchard River project to the conservancy district, because of its expertise.
Corps officials gave no details about the flood-control plan on Friday, but did give a price estimate of between $125 million and $200 million.
The conservancy court, which represents the 15 counties affected by the Maumee River, was organized after a 1913 flood devastated much of the Midwest. The court is meant to keep politics out of the decision-making.
The conservancy district could eventually take over the duties of “local sponsor,” the position now held by the Hancock County commissioners. As local sponsor, the conservancy district would oversee flood-control construction and could levy assessments.
Hancock County Commissioner Brian Robertson said as soon as the tentative flood-control plan is completed by the corps, his office will begin the procedures necessary to turn the project over to the conservancy district.
The corps recently moved the projected completion date of its planning back by a year to 18 months.
The final flood-control plan for the river, the “chief’s report,” is due by late 2016.
That report would then be submitted to Congress in an attempt to gain up to 65 percent federal funding for construction.
The conservancy court has “said all along they would consider our projects when the tentatively-selected plan was formally announced by the corps. They reiterated that position on Friday,” said Steve Wilson, project manager for the Hancock County Engineer’s Office.