By DENISE GRANT
Improving the channel of the Blanchard River as it flows through Findlay has the potential to provide benefits that are four times the size of the $20 million investment.
The benefit-to-cost ratio of at least 4:1 for the Findlay river improvements is included in a final report released late Monday by Stantec, the engineering firm hired by the Hancock County commissioners to take charge of the county’s flood-control project.
However, the benefit-to-cost ratio of the entire Stantec proposal, which also includes the construction of three large “dry storage” basins for floodwater, is much less, a ratio of at least 1.5 to 1. That means there would be at least a $1.50 return on every dollar spent on the whole project.
Stantec’s 470-page report is available to the public online at www.hancockcountyflooding.com.
Public meetings on the final Stantec recommendations are expected to be held this month.
Jack Faucett Associates of Bethesda, Maryland, a company that specializes in economics and public policy analysis, was subcontracted by Stantec to calculate the benefit-to-cost ratio of its recommendations.
Faucett went well beyond the numbers used by the Army Corps of Engineers to calculate the benefit-to-cost ratio on the Stantec plan.
Roadway damages from a flood, and the cost of rerouting traffic, resident relocation and “re-occupation” costs were included. Findlay businesses were asked to calculate their losses beyond just structural damage and content loss. Faucett also considered loss of income, wages, sales and related expenses. Area farmers also were surveyed.
Other factors included in Faucett’s evaluation included utility damages, debris removal, as well as gains from the use of land that will be no longer impacted by flooding once the proposed construction is done.
In February, Stantec recommended the Findlay channel improvements, plus construction of dams upstream of Findlay to create large “dry storage” basins for floodwater. The basins would be along the Blanchard River, along Eagle Creek, and along a tributary of the river known as Potato Run, just south of Mount Blanchard.
Stantec was hired by the commissioners last year to evaluate the Army Corps of Engineers’ flood-control plan. The engineering firm, headquartered in Canada, employs a workforce of about 300 in Ohio, with offices in Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
At a public meeting Feb. 22, Stantec said it would not recommend the Army Corps’ proposed Eagle Creek diversion channel. However, that channel, with some modifications, is still a possibility.
In all, the Stantec plan would cost an estimated $160 million, twice the cost of the Army Corps’ proposed diversion channel.
Altogether, Stantec’s recommended changes could drop the Blanchard River’s level by about 3.6 feet on Main Street during a 100-year flood, according to Stantec.
Stantec contends the diversion channel, as proposed by the corps, would have only dropped the river 1 foot at Main Street during a 100-year-flood.
The Hancock County commissioners voted in June 2016 to take local control of the flood plan and seek outside engineers, after learning that an Army Corps of Engineers internal review of its flood plan found problems.
Corps reviewers decided the estimated cost of the proposed diversion channel on Findlay’s west side, which had been set at $60.5 million, was too low, and increased the estimate to $80 million. The added expense reduced the benefit-to-cost ratio of the project to the point that the corps no longer considered the plan economically feasible.
The benefit-to-cost ratio of the diversion channel was less than 1 to 1.
The Maumee Watershed Conservancy District will now consider whether to approve Stantec’s final plan, and make a recommendation to the Maumee Watershed Conservancy Court.
The court, which oversees the conservancy district, comprises common pleas court judges representing the 15 counties affected by the Maumee River. Its annual meeting is scheduled for May 5.
The conservancy district is only expected to ask the court for permission to begin work to improve the river channel in Findlay. The basin plans are likely to be presented to the judges for further review.