The defeat of Steve Oman in the Hancock County commissioner’s Republican primary suggests that most people, or at least those who bothered to vote, believe there is more to our flooding problem than just cleaning the Blanchard River.
Was the commissioner’s race, which pitted Oman vs. incumbent Phil Riegle, a referendum on flood control? Some voters probably saw it that way. Oman made it crystal clear what his intentions were.
From day one, the former county commissioner stated that his campaign would be about giving the Blanchard River a makeover and the farm community a voice. He suggested commissioners would better serve taxpayers by pushing for a project that would dredge the river rather than continue to fund studies from the Army Corps of Engineers.
He reiterated that position in newspaper and radio ads, on his campaign signs, and whenever he spoke.
While Oman didn’t win, he may have still accomplished his goal. His message got out that the Blanchard River and rural interests can’t be ignored.
But Riegle’s convincing margin of victory, 62 percent, suggests most people believe finding a long-term answer to flooding will require more than just unplugging the river.
People vote for different reasons, of course, but those who saw Oman’s campaign as an attempt to thwart flood control may have sent a message that we’ve come too far to be distracted.
Interestingly, Tuesday’s election came on the heels of the annual meeting of the Maumee Watershed Conservancy Court.
Last week, the court held its meeting in Defiance and the Blanchard River was the main topic of conversation. While no action was taken, the court indicated it is keeping abreast of the corps’ studies.
The court is made up of one judge from each of the 15 counties of the Maumee River watershed, and includes the smaller Blanchard River watershed.
While not now directly involved in the Blanchard River project, the court is likely to be asked to become the “local sponsor” of the project, a role the Hancock County commissioners now play.
It would be the Maumee conservancy court which would then oversee project construction and levy assessments, if needed, on property owners who would benefit.
The court seems open to the idea of taking on the Blanchard River project, which would be its largest.
That’s a positive sign, considering the same court had previously balked at taking on the task.
Flood control may still seem far away. But the river is getting cleaned and we apparently have more than a dozen judges who appear ready and willing to handle oversight of the project once it gets to that point.
At least for those who voted to stay the course, that’s not a bad position to be in.
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