Stepping stone

The $1.5 million budgeted by the Army Corps of Engineers for the Blanchard River Flood Mitigation Study is a drop in the bucket. It could take, after all, from $111 million to $200 million to pay for our flood-control projects.
But Tuesday’s funding announcement made a big splash, nonetheless. Without the federal help, the entire project may have been put on hold, if not scrapped altogether.
We’ve come too far for that.
The corps had balked about paying its half of a $3 million environmental review that is part of the bigger flood study. While the Hancock County commissioners had agreed to pay their portion, the corps’ share had been in question.
The corps’ decision to include the review in its $4.8 billion in funded projects for 2014 came after a well-orchestrated lobbying effort from local, state and federal officials.
Many people played a role, but the clincher may have been Marathon Petroleum Corp. CEO Gary Heminger, who visited Washington last month. During meetings with the corps and others, Heminger reminded officials how critical flood control is to northwestern Ohio and to Marathon, which manages about 10 percent of the nation’s transportation fuels through its pipelines.
Heminger, though, wasn’t the only one to go to bat for flood control.
Both of Ohio’s senators, Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, and Rep. Bob Latta have lobbied hard for the federal money to move the process along. State Sen. Cliff Hite and state Rep. Robert Sprague, both of Findlay, are on board as well, and Tony Iriti, economic development director of the Findlay-Hancock County Alliance, Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik and Hancock County Commissioner Brian Robertson are among those who have traveled to D.C.
We’ll also include Gov. John Kasich on the short list of influential supporters. It was Kasich, who, during a meeting with Courier reporters and editors at Bowling Green State University in June, called out all our representatives for not pushing hard enough for federal money. He encouraged a more unified alliance of Ohio lawmakers to make our case.
While it’s impossible to say how much impact Kasich’s nudge had, it didn’t hurt. Ever since, our representatives have used every opportunity to remind those in Washington that our flood-control project can’t be overlooked.
We needed all that support to get the corps to open its wallet. The fact of the matter is, it probably wasn’t any one thing, or any one person, that made a difference, but rather the collective pressure on the corps to live up to its end of the bargain.
There are still no flood-control projects underway, but at least our $6 million study will get completed. The corps’ final plan for the Blanchard River should be in our hands next year.
Convincing Congress to partner with northwestern Ohio to help fund selected projects will not be easy, but with a team like the one mentioned above, it may be impossible to deny.



About the Author