DEFIANCE — Better convinced there are willing land sellers for a flood basin along Eagle Creek, the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District board has agreed to take local control of securing a $15 million state grant for more flood-control improvements in Hancock County.

The board met in regular session today, and voted to spearhead the project.

The basin will likely affect five or six landowners. Clark Lynn Army, general manager of the conservancy district, told his board today that officials from the Blanchard River Watershed Solutions group have assured him that there are willing sellers.

The group includes business, government and private citizens, along with representatives of Hancock United for a Better Blanchard, or HUBB, and Citizens United for a Better Blanchard, or CUBB.

The conservancy district wants to avoid a prolonged legal battle, like the one it just settled in Putnam County with two landowners. That project has been tied up in litigation since the fall of 2016. Under Ohio law, the conservancy district has the authority of eminent domain, which means it can take property from landowners for a public use. Landowners must be paid a fair price for the property taken.

Work on the proposed $5 million, 4,000-foot diversion channel on Ottawa’s northwestern side could begin this fall.

The conservancy district agreed to take leadership on securing the grant money for Eagle Creek at the request of the Hancock County commissioners in a letter dated June 6.

In December, Ohio’s General Assembly included the grant allocation in its capital budget, and gave the Ohio Department of Natural Resources state oversight of the funds. In order for the money to be released through the State Controlling Board, a proposed project “information packet” must be submitted to the Natural Resources department and approved.

The money is meant to provide funding for preliminary engineering and land acquisition.

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