Blanchard River ‘benching’ bids to be ready next year

By JIM MAURER
STAFF WRITER

By the end of March 2018, the Stantec engineering firm should be ready to seek bids for “benching” or widening the Blanchard River banks and the removal of the ripple dams to improve water flow through downtown Findlay.

Steve Wilson, project manager with Stantec on the flood-reduction efforts, updated the Hancock County commissioners Tuesday on activities since the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District approved the river projects this spring.

Wilson also said discussions have begun with Norfolk Southern railroad on widening and replacing the railroad bridge over the river — another flood-control recommendation from Stantec — but he said the project is several years from getting underway.

The planned river work in the city is estimated at $20 million. The county has about $18 million in its flood-mitigation account, which is funded by a portion of the county’s additional half-percent sales tax.

Commissioner Brian Robertson praised Wilson and Stantec’s efforts, saying it will be about two years after the Canada-based company was hired that work will be ready for bid. That is much quicker than the Army Corps of Engineers, which was involved for 10 years before the commissioners dropped the Army Corps in favor of Stantec.

The county has spent about $2 million with Stantec and the plans have progressed, Robertson said, while $10 million was spent with the federal agency with few results.

Separately, Wilson said underground storage tanks will have to be removed at 136 N. Main St. at a cost of more than $47,000. The property was recently purchased by the county as part of the flood-reduction efforts. The commissioners are expected to consider a resolution for the expense soon, and the project will be paid for from the county’s flood-mitigation fund.

Separately, Robertson gave an update about a two-hour closed meeting held last week with about 30 county, township, and Soil and Water Conservation District personnel. The group met to develop a “post-flood action plan” for surface water drainage problems.

The action plan was divided into 11 areas, and while some work has been started or scheduled for this fall, most of the work is under the “to be determined” category.

Several logjams in the Blanchard River will be contracted for removal by the Hancock Soil and Water Conservation District this fall. Some debris removal will be done this fall, but a larger river maintenance project is expected in the spring.

Areas in the action plan include: Western Avenue and both ends of the Martin Luther King Way overpass; Western Meadows and Eastern Estates in Liberty Township; Hancock County 99 near the Findlay Arrowhead Industrial Park; Ohio 568 and Hancock County 180 intersection on the east side of Findlay, which contributes to slow drainage in the Hunters Creek subdivision; Forest Lake subdivision in Marion Township; and a drainage project in Amanda Township.

Robertson said the various entities will work together to take action on some of the issues through “small steps.” He said if 40 to 80 percent of the list could be completed, “it would be better than nothing.”

Drainage tile will be replaced in the Western Meadows subdivision, between Ohio 12 and Hancock County 88, where crushed tile was blamed for drainage problems after the recent flash flooding.

“Hopefully, Western Meadows (drainage) is on the way to working again,” said Commissioner Mark Gazarek. “Hopefully.”

The commissioners also held an executive session Tuesday to discuss potential real estate acquisition. No action was taken.

Maurer: 419-427-8420
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