People living in the Blanchard River watershed and still concerned about flooding (and who isn’t?) needed a sign, and seemed to get it with Wednesday’s visit by Army Lt. Col. Karl D. Jansen.
Jansen, the new commander of the Buffalo District of the Corps of Engineers, spent much of his day checking geography, getting briefed about our tendency to flood, and hearing complaints and concerns.
He listened more than he spoke, but when he did, he said the right things.
He called our Blanchard River flood study “priority number one.” He told one group of rural residents that he would return for a closer look at their concerns.
“We serve you,” he said at one stop in Putnam County.
Jansen’s visit, arranged by Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, came at the right time. In recent weeks, frustration has mounted as the corps has been unresponsive to inquiries about progress in its study of the watershed.
Some Putnam County officials have even hinted they may pull out of the study.
Jansen’s visit should stem additional fallout. His appearances at flood hotspots in Findlay and at the I-9 bridge in Putnam County were more than a photo op for the media.
While the stops weren’t exactly public meetings, anyone could have taken the opportunity to follow Jansen.
Some did, and some complained, but the questions asked of him suggested there is more frustration than contempt about the project.
People want answers and action, and Jansen promised there would be better communication going forward. He also said the corps would respond to public records requests The Courier has made regarding how public money has been spent on the study.
Jansen was not standing alone. Besides Latta, Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik accompanied him, along with state Reps. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, and Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon. He was joined at the I-9 bridge by various Ottawa and Putnam County officials and residents.
Meanwhile, Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown, while not present Wednesday, have pledged continued support for the study and the project through recent emails.
There was nothing new to report from Wednesday, but the fact that Jansen came to the area amidst growing criticism of corps’ inaction and gave considerable facetime spoke volumes. His interest in understanding our problem seemed sincere, and should go a long way toward building better relations between the corps and the people, its boss.
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