By DENISE GRANT
Work on the largest flood-control project in Findlay’s history got underway in 2018, and will continue this year.
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.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the project in October.
Earlier in the year, a $105,000 contract was awarded to H&H Land Clearing, Middlefield, to clear trees from the site.
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.
The benching will lower the top bank of the river between 2 feet and 16 feet in the deepest spot. Benches will be about 400 feet at the widest point.
The conservancy district also said it would stop spending money on three floodwater storage basins proposed by the Stantec engineering firm, due to cost and the “public outcry” against the engineering firm’s idea.
In December, Gov. John Kasich signed legislation that includes $15 million for flood mitigation in Hancock County.
The Hancock County commissioners or the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District will likely manage any work done with that money, according to state Sen. Robert McColley, R-Napoleon. He also said a 20 percent local match will be required.
The state money is earmarked for a flood-reduction project along Eagle Creek, which flows into the Blanchard River at Findlay.
The money could be used to study building a floodwater storage basin along the creek.
Demolition of property in the flood plain also continued in 2018.
Nikki’s Bar, 139 N. Main St., was purchased and demolished with a $143,500 federal hazard mitigation grant.
Property at 437 Davis St. and 532 Cross Ave. was purchased and demolished with $62,100 from the Hancock County flood fund, which is managed by the Hancock County commissioners. A 10-year quarter-percent county sales tax dedicated to flood control expired in December.
Steve Wilson, a former Hancock County engineer, serves as project manager for the conservancy district on the benching project. He also manages flood-control projects for Hancock County that do not involve the conservancy district.
In the fall, Wilson said, contractors removed portions of riffle dams in the Blanchard River to lower the water level and aid with the relocation of freshwater mussels inhabiting the work area.
He said new riffle structures will be built in their place. The riffles help with adding oxygen to the water.
Wilson also said Helms has removed about 60 percent of the material from the former Brandman tire dump along the river, where benching work is being done.
As work continues on the benching this year, Wilson said local officials will continue to attempt to negotiate with Norfolk Southern Railroad to replace its old bridge over the Blanchard River. Supports for the bridge impede the river’s flow during high water.
Wilson said property acquisition and demolition of structures in the flood plain will continue in 2019.
The public can monitor progress on the project online at www.hancockcountyflooding.com.