WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate passed a $12 billion water projects bill Thursday, and it included an amendment that could speed up the Blanchard River flood-control project.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced the amendment, which will allows projects such as the Blanchard River flood-control effort to become eligible for federal construction funds upon completion of a “chief’s report” by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Without the amendment, the Blanchard River project would not be eligible for construction funding until the next reauthorization of the federal Water Resources Reform and Development Act. The act was last reauthorized in 2007.
The water projects bill is now awaiting President Obama’s signature.
“We must end the arbitrary waiting game for important projects like the Blanchard River Flood Risk Management Project,” Brown said. “Findlay and Ottawa have invested time and valuable financial resources into getting this project underway, and it’s critical that the U.S. Army Corps continue to do the same by providing the appropriate funds for its completion. I thank my colleagues for passing legislation that could help keep the people and businesses of Ottawa and Findlay safe from future flooding events.”
Brown said the Blanchard River flood-control study is being used by the corps as a model for projects in the rest of the country.
Brown said the amendment provides greater assurance that the Findlay community and businesses, such as Marathon Petroleum, will be safe from flooding and can stay and grow in the region.
The corps recently moved the projected completion date of its Blanchard River flood-control study 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. Construction could cost between $125 million to $200 million, according to estimates by the corps.
In all, the Blanchard River study is expected to cost about $9 million, with the corps and the Hancock County commissioners splitting the bill.
About $2.5 million a year is set aside from a half-percent, 10-year sales tax increase approved by Hancock County voters in 2009. Half of the revenue is used for flood control, the other half is used for county operations. Findlay also contributed $1.8 million toward the flood fund.