By DENISE GRANT
Crowds of frustrated people greeted Lt. Col. Karl D. Jansen, new commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Buffalo District, on his tour Wednesday of flood-prone areas in both Findlay and Ottawa.
While Jansen spent much of the tour talking with officials, he was polite and patient as people clamored for his attention. Most had a litany of complaints about the corps and the Blanchard River flood-control plan.
Jansen is promising better communications and cooperation from the corps under his leadership. He called the Blanchard River flood study “priority number one” for the Buffalo District. He said the study is on schedule to be finished by March 2016, and the corps is working to push that timeline ahead by at least 90 days.
“We serve you,” Jansen told a crowd of about 50 people who gathered on the I-9 bridge near Ottawa to listen to the corps’ plans for the lower Blanchard River. Several people complained about a lack of cooperation between the corps and local leadership.
The I-9 bridge, which was replaced in 1996, has been blamed for backing up water on the Blanchard River and making flooding in Ottawa worse. The corps’ plan would modify the long approach to the bridge.
Putnam County Engineer Terrence Recker wants to see the corps’ data on the bridge, and says he is being ignored. Without the data, Putnam County’s commissioners have said they will not endorse the flood-control plan. Ottawa officials, however, are ready to push on with the project without the commissioners’ backing.
The tour in Ottawa also included a stop at the flood-prone intersection of Ohio 65 and U.S. 224. When the crossing is blocked by high water, it makes travel through the village difficult.
In Findlay, Jansen visited Emory Adams Park, the Blanchard Street bridge at East Main Cross Street, Civitan Park, and 100 Taylor St. Along the way, Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik and state Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, described the events of the August 2007 flood.
“The first calls started coming from the Spring Lake subdivision, where people needed to be evacuated,” said Sprague, then Findlay’s auditor.
Most of the crowd following Jansen on his Findlay route were actually Hancock County residents. They complained that their input is being ignored.
“All the stops are in Findlay. Why would they do that?” asked Kay Zeisloft, of 7398 Liberty Township 89.
Zeisloft told the commander that the flood plan “affects our homes and businesses, and we’re being left with silence.”
“They act like they don’t even care what is happening to my property,” said Frank Niese, of Township 34, Jenera.
Niese said the river is so jammed up near property he owns that the Blanchard has cut its own channel around a logjam and onto his property. The new channel is about 15 to 17 feet deep and 40 feet wide and runs about an eighth of a mile, Niese said.
Participants asked Jansen, who drove the length of the Blanchard River earlier Wednesday, to come back for a closer look at rural concerns. Jansen indicated he would.
Jansen was invited on the tour by U.S. Rep. Robert Latta, R-Bowling Green.
Jansen replaces Lt. Col. Owen Beaudoin, who was removed from the Buffalo District position in May for reasons involving personal misconduct, according to the corps.
Jansen’s previous assignments include deputy commanding officer, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Fort Polk, Louisiana; operations officer and executive officer of the 46th Engineer Battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana; operations officer and project engineer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District; company commander, battalion logistics officer, battalion personnel officer, and company executive officer in the 84th Engineer Battalion at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; battalion maintenance officer and platoon leader in the 10th Engineer Battalion at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Jansen earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the U.S. Military Academy in 1997, and a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington in 2006. He is a registered professional engineer in the State of Washington and a certified project management professional.
Send an E-mail to Denise Grant