This photo, taken by a drone, shows flooding of properties along the Blanchard River northwest of Ottawa in July. Two properties are involved in an eminent domain dispute over a proposed diversion channel for the river near Ottawa. At least one of the properties was almost completely inundated by floodwater in July. The water also overtook the I-9 bridge, as intended. (Provided by Brandon Barlage)

By DENISE GRANT
STAFF WRITER

Flood-control plans for Findlay and Hancock County could take a new direction.

On Tuesday, the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District board voted unanimously to ask Stantec engineers to re-examine their flood-control recommendations using a new rainfall model, which more closely reflects a modern trend toward frequent and severe flooding in northwestern Ohio.

The new rainfall model uses data collected during storms in recent years, instead of relying on the assumption that the same amount of rain falls throughout the Blanchard River watershed.

The model, which will be released soon, is expected to show that big storms, carrying torrential amounts of rain, typically track south of Findlay. These storms, capable of producing more than 5 to 6 inches of rain within hours, dump large amounts of rain in the Eagle Creek area. Eagle Creek flows into the Blanchard River at Findlay.

Both the Stantec engineering firm and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have said that climate change, more so than any other factor, is most likely to blame.

Data studied by Stantec shows that since the severe flood of August 2007, Findlay has endured greater and more frequent flooding than at any time since the great flood of 1913, the worst on record. The 2007 flood was a very close second.

And since 2000, the city has flooded 15 times, and seven of those floods were above major flood stage of 13.5 feet.

The floods of 1913 and 2007 were both measured at about 18.5 feet, with both being considered a little greater than a 100-year event. A 100-year flood has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

After the 2007 flood, Hancock County and Findlay officials sought the Army Corps of Engineers’ help in developing a flood-reduction plan.

Nine years later, the Hancock County commissioners gave up on the Army Corps. Last year they hired Stantec, which has developed new flood-reduction plans for Findlay and Hancock County.
Stantec has proposed widening the river in Findlay, and that plan is proceeding. Stantec has also proposed constructing three floodwater storage basins in southern Hancock County, a project that could cost $140 million. The basin idea has met with opposition from landowners in those areas.

Separately Tuesday, the conservancy district said litigation involving its efforts to acquire two properties in Putnam County through eminent domain action should be settled by mid-October.

District officials expect the courts to rule in their favor.

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.

A proposed $5 million, 4,000-foot diversion channel on Ottawa’s northwestern side is much smaller than a 9.4-mile Eagle Creek diversion channel proposed for Findlay/Hancock County by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Other than utility easements, the Putnam diversion channel affects only the two property owners.

The project has been tied up in litigation since the fall of 2016. Through a series of motions and appeals, the landowners have claimed the conservancy district failed to follow state law governing eminent domain actions, and has no right to claim the ground.

Aerial photographs of the properties in question, taken during the July flooding, show at least one of the properties was almost completely inundated by floodwater.

The photo also shows floodwater overtaking the I-9 bridge, as intended. The approach to the bridge, which had been built up to keep the roadway above water for emergency vehicles, was damming floodwater and backing it up toward Ottawa. The approach was recently lowered as part of flood-control efforts in Putnam County.

Grant: 419-427-8412
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Twitter: @ByDeniseGrant

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