By DENISE GRANT
The Maumee Watershed Conservancy District has agreed to begin work on the flood-control plan for the lower Blanchard River and the Village of Ottawa.
The conservancy district voted this week to take over leadership of the project at the request of both Ottawa Village Council and the Blanchard River Flood Mitigation Coalition. The coalition was formed in November 2007 to find solutions to flooding in Ottawa.
Clark Lynn Army, director of the conservancy district, said the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan for the lower Blanchard River will be refined by the conservancy district as it works to develop designs for the project.
“We’ll want to consider the merits of the project and then submit all of that information to the (conservancy district) court for its approval,” Army said. “Of course, the entire plan hinges on the State of Ohio being forthcoming with the $8 million it has promised for the construction.”
The conservancy district includes 15 counties: Allen, Auglaize, Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Lucas, Mercer, Paulding, Putnam, Shelby, Van Wert, Williams and Wood. The district has a three-member board of directors. A judge from each county in the district serves on a conservancy court, which is the decision-making authority for the district.
There are 23 active conservancy districts in Ohio. Their work focuses on flood reduction, recreation, water resource preservation and drainage assistance.
“Our residents have been so patient. This is the next step in the process and it shows progress. Finally, we will be doing something other than study,” said Ottawa Mayor Dean Meyer.
The plan is expected to include an alteration to the approach for the Road I-9 bridge in Putnam County’s Ottawa Township, along with a diversion channel and an ecosystem restoration area on the northwest side of Ottawa. The project would also include buying out or raising several Putnam County homes and other structures in the flood plain.
Groundbreaking could begin in 2015.
Mike Pniewski, project manager for the corps’ Buffalo District, told the Putnam County Sentinel that the corps is now working to “package” its raw data and is preparing an executive summary on its findings for the lower Blanchard.
“In the next few months we’ll prepare a formal closure report,” he told the Sentinel.
With construction in the Ottawa area expected to cost less than $10 million, the corps can authorize the project without congressional approval.
Ottawa officials have asked the Putnam County commissioners to support the corps’ plans, but they have refused.
The I-9 bridge has been blamed for backing up floodwater, and making flooding worse in Ottawa.
But Putnam County Engineer Terrence Recker questions whether the corps’ data on the I-9 bridge is valid. When the bridge was replaced in 1996, Recker said it was constructed to stay dry during a 100-year flood event, without creating backwater. He said the corps’ proposed modifications would allow the bridge to flood during a two-year flooding event.
Putnam County Commissioner Vince Schroeder has said no one has been able to provide scientific data that proves the bridge is creating a flooding problem for Ottawa.
Schroeder said 1,400 cars a day use the bridge. It is also used by both fire and emergency medical personnel going north from Glandorf.
County bridges and roadways typically are the responsibility of the county engineer’s office. It is unclear if the corps or the conservancy district’s authority supersedes county control of the bridge.
Hancock County officials have said an early start on flood-control work on the lower Blanchard River will benefit Hancock County’s efforts.
Flood-control construction in the Findlay area could top $100 million, and federal funding will require approval by Congress. The Blanchard River flood study should be completed in 2016, at which time it will be presented to Congress.
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