It’s still in draft form — and the proposals are far from reality — but the latest report from Stantec Consulting Services on our Blanchard River Flood Risk Reduction Program should pique interest.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, board members were given a review of Stantec’s best plan for reducing flood damage when heavy rains fall in the watershed.
The recommendations remain basically the same as last year’s, but have been revised to take into consideration some of the concerns from stakeholders, new data and analysis.
Stantec had already proposed replacing the Army Corps of Engineers’ idea of a 9-plus mile diversion channel with three dry storage basins, south of Findlay. But the basins weren’t embraced by all, especially those whose land was involved, and while Stantec stands by the concept, it appears it heard the concerns.
The draft report proposes reducing the size of two of the basins, which would decrease the amount of farmland needed and the number of residences and other structures that would need to be acquired.
The 100-page-plus draft (available at www.hancockcountyfindlay.com) is a lot to digest, but will provide a good guide for coming discussions. The conversation must begin soon.
While the first flood project, the widening and benching of a portion of the Blanchard River between the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge just west of downtown Findlay and Broad Avenue, is nearly shovel-ready, the next project will need to be vetted. With storage basins still on the table, someone or some group must find a way to bridge the various interests of Hancock County into a plan that the majority can support and ultimately finance.
The numbers are there to support some or all of Stantec’s recommendations. It remains to be seen how much community buy-in will result and which, if any, of the proposals advance.
The storage basin idea will never get unanimous support. No one idea would. The cost of the proposed plan (including the benching project) is now estimated at about $154 million. But the cost-benefit ratio has improved to 2.94, which means that for every $1 spent on the project, there will be a benefit of $2.94.
Stantec has provided the engineering piece of the puzzle, the numbers and analysis. The political piece will be more challenging, but can be accomplished if county and city officials and other major stakeholders set aside personal agendas and work collectively to support a reasonable plan for the entire watershed, not just the city of Findlay or just rural interests.
We’ve already come further than any generation who has lived along the Blanchard River, in terms of flood control. A study conducted in the 1960s by the Army Corps of Engineers proposed flood walls and levees as a solution to flooding. That project was estimated to cost only $12.4 million, but by the mid-1960s, it died for lack of support.
Flood control in the Blanchard River watershed still has a lot of moving pieces and a long timeline. But it’s important to get it right, however long it takes. While the decision is ultimately in the hands of the conservancy board, it is unlikely any major project will get approved without considerable buy-in.
If there is a community that can sort through such a complex matter, it is this one. Let’s keep talking.