By DENISE GRANT
The Hancock County commissioners have agreed to a $375,000 review of Stantec’s flood-control recommendations, in what could be described as a win for rural landowners, Commissioner Brian Robertson said Tuesday.
“Keep up the pressure,” he said to seven property owners who attended the commissioners’ regular meeting.
Stantec, a Canadian-based engineering firm, has proposed widening the Blanchard River in Findlay, and that plan is proceeding.
The company has also proposed constructing three floodwater storage basins in southern Hancock County, a project that could cost $140 million. The basin idea has met with opposition from landowners in those areas.
During Tuesday’s meeting, rural property owners expressed concern about their property values if the basins are built. They also brought up the danger of living near dams, the added expense of flood insurance, and the assessments and sales taxes needed to pay for it all.
Robertson said it’s worthwhile to take another look at Stantec’s proposals.
“We’re going to take another look at those basins, and we’re going to revisit the idea of basins (being built) along the waterway,” Robertson said.
The idea of constructing floodwater storage basins along the Blanchard River, known as in-line detention, was proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers. However, the idea was ruled out by the corps due to its cost and impact on wetlands.
In August, the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, Defiance, which is in charge of flood-control efforts in Hancock County, asked Stantec to review its recommendations using a new rainfall model, which more closely reflects a modern trend toward frequent and severe flooding in northwestern Ohio.
The use of aerial photography will also provide a much more accurate description of the area’s topography, said Steve Wilson, project manager for the conservancy district.
According to Stantec, the reevaluation will provide additional information for planning, and will include refined flood maps and an updated benefit-to-cost ratio for its proposals.
Stantec said the new report will give side-by-side comparisons with its original report, including:
- Total estimated acreage within the proposed floodwater basins.
- Estimated inundated acreage in the basins during a 100-year flood.
- Estimated number of parcels impacted.
- Estimated number of residences impacted.
- Estimated number of parcels removed from the regulatory flood plain if the basins are constructed.
- Estimated acreage removed from the 100-year flood plain if the basins are built.
- A revised estimate of construction costs.
A draft of the revisions will be completed by next April, with the final report due in June.
On Tuesday, Wilson said the goal is to finish the report in time to present it to the Maumee Watershed Conservancy Court at its regular meeting in June.
However, Wilson said it’s unlikely the court will act quickly on the recommendations.
The court, which oversees the conservancy district, is comprised of common pleas court judges representing the 15 counties affected by the Maumee River.
Robertson continued to push Tuesday for formation of a local committee to improve dialogue about flood control. He said the business and agriculture communities need to sit down and iron out their differences.
He envisions forming a committee with no quorum of government leaders, which would circumvent Ohio’s open meeting laws. The meetings could then be legally closed to the public, just like a meeting held in August by township and county officials following the July flood.
Robertson argues that closed-door meetings, particularly without the presence of the media, allow for more frank discussions.
He said elevating area roadways and re-examining rules for construction, both in the flood plain and the floodway, are two ideas that came out of the August meeting.