By DENISE GRANT
It seemed oddly fitting that groundbreaking ceremonies for the first large-scale flood-control project for the Blanchard River at Findlay took place Thursday afternoon, under the threat of rain.
For Findlay, heavy rainfall poses a threat to both life and property, and the city has become well-practiced at coping with floodwater and fighting for solutions in recent years.
No one in the crowd of about 80 public officials, residents and business leaders needed the rumble of thunder to remind them that the threat is real, the answers aren’t easy and that the day was historic.
“This is really, finally happening,” said Hancock County Commissioner Brian Robertson. “… It’s time to move dirt!”
Robertson even brought his own shovel.
Excavation for the project is expected to get underway by late October, with the project to be completed in September 2019.
On Sept. 11, the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District awarded a $6.1 million contract to Helms Construction, Findlay, for improvements to the Blanchard River in Findlay. The river will 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.
Once complete, the improvements to the river in Findlay are expected to reduce the height of flooding on Main Street by about 1 foot during a 100-year storm.
The project is expected to remove about 600 parcels from the flood plain in Findlay and make travel easier during a flood.
Aside from clearing the Blanchard River floodway of houses and other structures, the river widening is the largest flood-control project in Findlay’s history.
Building the benches means “a lot of excavation,” said Derek Dalton, project manager for the Stantec engineering firm.
“It’s going to be lowering the top bank of the river down between 2 feet and 16 feet in the deepest spot,” Dalton said.
The bench will be about 400 feet at the widest point.
“When the water elevation starts to come up during a flooding event, it will give a wide, open area for the river to expand to. It will lower the water velocity and ultimately result in a lower water surface elevation during a flood event,” he said.
The public will be able to monitor progress on the project online at www.hancockcountyflooding.com.