Hancock County taxpayers deserve an explanation of discrepancies between an Army Corps of Engineers plan for the Blanchard River watershed and that of a private engineering firm which has recommended another course of action.
Had plans moved forward with the original proposal to build a diversion channel, the county may not have ended up with as much flood protection as the corps once promised.
To review, the corps, after a nearly nine-year-long study of the Blanchard River watershed, recommended a 9.4-mile diversion channel from Eagle Creek, south of Findlay, to the Blanchard River, west of Findlay, as the best way to lessen flood damage.
Building the $60.5 million channel, the corps first claimed in April 2015, would reduce the floodwater level in downtown Findlay by 2 feet during a flood like the one in August 2007.
Four months later, in August 2015, the corps revised the plan, saying it would now cost $80 million, but would reduce floodwater by 4.6 feet.
But the 4.6-foot figure was challenged by Stantec, an engineering firm hired by the Hancock County commissioners last year to review the corps plan once it became apparent the county would not qualify for federal funding.
Last month, Stantec announced the corps’ calculations of the flood benefits were off and it would not recommend the diversion channel. The corps’ channel, according to Stantec modeling, would only decrease downtown flooding by about 1 foot.
While Stantec hasn’t eliminated the diversion project from its recommendation list, it has said the channel would have to be made wider to provide the benefit the corps had projected. Those modifications would increase the cost to $106 million.
Stantec has other ideas, including widening the river channel through Findlay and building earthen dams to create dry storage basins south of Findlay.
The different opinions beg more information. What if the commissioners had not sought a second review?
And what if the corps’ apparent “modeling error” had gone unnoticed and the project moved forward? Hancock County could have ended up with an $80 million diversion channel that wouldn’t have delivered in a major flood.
To their credit, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, have sent a letter to the corps seeking more information.
Questions need to be asked and answered, if only because of the amount of the money that has already been spent on flood control and will be spent in the future.
The Stantec plan, if approved, will run between $20 million and $160 million, depending on what projects are ultimately chosen by the commissioners and the Maumee Conservancy District.
The corps’ study cost about $10 million, about half of which was paid for with federal tax dollars. The rest has come from Hancock County taxpayers, who support flood relief efforts through a sales tax.
Modeling error or human error, a clarification, at the very least, is needed from the corps.
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