By DENISE GRANT
Work to widen the Blanchard River, as part of the flood-control plan for Findlay, could be done by August 2019 if all goes as planned, an engineer told a Findlay audience Wednesday night.
Details of the project were discussed by representatives of the Stantec engineering firm at a public meeting that drew a small and agreeable crowd. About 50 people attended the nearly hour-long meeting held at Winebrenner Theological Seminary TLB Auditorium, and the event ended in applause.
Work to clear trees from about 12.8 acres along the river is set to begin Feb. 1 and be completed by March 31, said Adam Hoff, a principal engineer with Stantec.
On Jan. 16, the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, Defiance, awarded at $105,000 contract to H&H Land Clearing, Middlefield, to clear the trees. The company has been hired in the past by the Hancock Soil and Water Conservation District to pull logjams from the river. The company was one of four to bid on the project, which had been estimated at $150,000.
Bids to begin excavating soil from about 3,500 feet along the river will most likely be sought in July, with work to begin in August. It has previously been reported that the work would extend for about 2,000 feet along the river.
“Benches” will be cut into the north side of the riverbank between the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge and Broad Avenue. The benches are meant to increase the river’s ability to hold floodwater.
At the widest point, the benches will extend about 450 feet.
Once complete, the improvements to the river are expected to reduce the height of flooding on Main Street by about 1 foot during a 100-year storm.
Almost all of the property to be cleared belongs to the City of Findlay. Only one private property owner will be affected by the land clearing.
Mature trees will be left along the bank of the river. Once the excavation work is done, a riparian buffer will be planted for about 50 feet behind the trees. The buffer is meant to stabilize the bank, filter pollution and provide wildlife habitat.
Hoff also said about 50,000 cubic yards of soil will be removed from the former Brandman tire dump. The area is considered a contaminated site by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
The tire dump and junkyard was located on the west side of North Cory Street, adjacent to the river.
The entire project will cost an estimated $12.1 million. It will remove about 600 parcels from the flood plain in Findlay and make travel easier during a flood, Hoff said.
Hoff said the timeline will depend on how well the project fares through the regulatory process.
He said the paperwork for all the required permits has been filed. The goal is to have them all issued by this summer.
Hoff said the second phase of river improvements in Findlay is expected to include widening the supports of the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge as it crosses the river. The bridge is about 90 years old. Modification of the bridge is expected to cost between $4 million and $5 million.
“The bridge is definitely a pinch point in the river,” Hoff said.
He said negotiations with Norfolk Southern are ongoing.
More information about the flood plan for Findlay is available online at www.hancockcountyflooding.com.