By DENISE GRANT
MOUNT BLANCHARD — An anxious crowd of about 200 people gathered at Riverdale High School on Tuesday night to hear more details about the Stantec proposal to build two large, dry storage basins for floodwater just south of Mount Blanchard.
Last year, the Hancock County commissioners hired the Stantec engineering firm to evaluate the Army Corps of Engineers’ flood-control study. The engineering firm, headquartered in Canada, employs a workforce of about 300 in Ohio.
The rules of Tuesday’s forum were set to limit comment from the crowd, but a few people spoke out anyway, questioning the reliability of Stantec’s projections about the flooding of the storage basins, particularly any threat to Riverdale School during a high flood.
Audience members, who were asked to submit their questions in writing to Stantec, also showed concern about the use of “high hazard” dams in the project.
Dams on both the Blanchard River and a tributary known as Potato Run would back floodwater up into the basins, inundating hundreds of acres with floodwater in the basin areas. The basins would then store the water, and release it slowly back into the river over a period of days.
Backed-up water on Potato Run would come close to Riverdale School, located at 20613 Ohio 37, Mount Blanchard.
Scott Peyton, project manager and senior principal engineer with Stantec, said inundation mapping shows that during a 100-year flood, Riverdale School’s sports fields would be flooded, but the water would stop short of the school itself.
But Jennifer Martin, of 20453 Delaware Township Road 187, questioned the accuracy of the maps, and accused Stantec of being misleading.
Peyton said the company will work to further detail the plans, and the maps could change, but any induced flooding would have to be identified and mitigated.
Martin, by far, was the most vocal Tuesday. Her home “sits right in the middle” of the proposed Blanchard River basin.
Peyton conceded Tuesday that the dams used to create the basins are considered “high hazard,” but said their construction is heavily regulated. He explained that “high hazard” means that should a dam fail, “loss of life” could be expected.
The dams would be constructed with emergency spillways, should floodwater overtake the capacity of the basins, or if a culvert was blocked. Water would overtop the spillways and be returned to the river.
Peyton said the project does have benefits beyond Findlay. The basins would lower floodwater on roads in the Mount Blanchard area, and 2,800 parcels, many of them farmland, would be removed from the flood plain.
Sharon Clements, of 20020 Hancock Road 17, who also spoke out during Tuesday’s meeting, said the plan wasn’t developed by the community and isn’t supported by it.
“You are coming to our community and telling us what to do,” she said.
Clements’ property isn’t directly affected by the basins, but the induced flooding could approach her land. Inundation maps currently show the property as clear of floodwater.
It would cost about $140 million to construct all three of Stantec’s proposed basins. The basins, along with proposed improvements to the Blanchard River as it flows through Findlay, would cost about $160 million.
The total plan would drop flood levels about 3.6 feet on Findlay’s Main Street during a 100-year flood, according to Stantec.
A meeting on the plan’s impact to Eagle Township will be held at 6 p.m. today in the maintenance garage of the Hancock County Engineer’s Office, 1900 Lima Ave.
A public meeting on the impact to Findlay will be held at 6 p.m. May 24 at Winebrenner Theological Seminary Auditorium, 950 N. Main St.
Stantec’s 470-page report is available to the public online at www.hancockcountyflooding.com.