By DENISE GRANT
The Ohio EPA promised Tuesday to get answers about the impact that a river widening project will have on existing wetlands along the Blanchard River at Findlay.
Richard Kozlowski, a member of the Blanchard River Watershed Partnership, asked the question Tuesday during a hearing on a state water quality permit for the widening project.
About 10 people attended the public information meeting and hearing held in the Lindamood Room of the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library. Kozlowski was the only one to ask questions and was the only one to have his concerns placed on the record.
Kozlowski questioned the plan to remove four low-head dams from the river as part of the widening project. Without the dams, Kozlowski questioned whether the river would run dry in the summer, and if the current wetlands in the area of Swale Park will dry out.
The Watershed Partnership works to improve the health of the river.
EPA officials could not answer his questions on Tuesday, but said all questions raised during the permit process will be answered before a decision is made on the application.
Plans call for the Blanchard River to be widened by cutting “benches” into the riverbank for about 3,500 feet between the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge and Broad Avenue.
The benches are meant to increase the river’s capacity. The project will excavate the benches on the north bank of the river.
The four dams will also be removed from the river channel. The bank and the channel of the river will be restored after the dams are removed.
According to the Ohio EPA, the project will improve water quality in the river. In order for the permit to be approved, water quality also must be protected during construction.
The permit application, prepared by the Stantec engineering firm, states that the dams will be replaced with riffle structures. Riffles create fast, turbulent water and improve the water quality for fish, invertebrates and other organisms.
Stantec said the existing dams also interfere with fish migration.
Repeated flooding of the new flood plain benches, along with a plan to plant native species in the project area, will eventually create higher-quality wetlands in the area, according to Stantec.
Once complete, the improvements to the river are expected to reduce the height of flooding on Main Street by about 1 foot during a 100-year storm.
Written comments on the permit application will continue to be accepted by the Ohio EPA through Tuesday, July 3.
Anyone may submit written comments, or request to be placed on a mailing list for information, by writing to: Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water, Permits Processing Unit, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216-1049, or by emailing email@example.com.