THIS SKETCH SHOWS the original 2017 borders of a floodwater storage basin that was proposed by the Stantec engineering firm for Eagle Creek, south of Findlay. A newer plan calls for a smaller, deeper storage basin, which would be located somewhere within the footprint of the original basin. The new plan would not involve forcing homeowners or farmers off their land, but instead has willing land sellers. (Sketch provided)

Staff Writer

More information about efforts to resurrect flood basin plans along Eagle Creek was made public at Monday’s meeting of the Findlay Rotary Club.

Representatives of the Blanchard River Watershed Solutions group were guest speakers at the Rotary luncheon. Speaking were group president Dave Blatnik, a state government affairs manager for Marathon Petroleum, and group secretary Tim Mayle, economic development director for Findlay and Hancock County.

Blatnik said the group has approached the Hancock County commissioners with an idea for engineering a smaller, deeper floodwater storage basin along Eagle Creek, instead of the larger basin proposed in 2017.

Meetings of the Blanchard River Watershed Solutions group are closed to the public, and this is the first time the group has publicly acknowledged another basin plan.

Blatnik said the new plan would not involve forcing homeowners or farmers off their land, but instead has willing property sellers.

He said the smaller basin would be located somewhere within the footprint of a much larger basin proposed in 2017 by the Stantec engineering firm along Eagle Creek in southern Hancock County.

In 2018, the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, Defiance, which has oversight of the current river benching project in Findlay, abandoned Stantec’s recommendation to build three large floodwater basins in southern Hancock County. The conservancy district board said the plan was too expensive and lacked public support.

No exact location was given for the smaller basin at Monday’s meeting. Blatnik said that’s best left to engineers to decide.

Construction of the smaller basin is estimated to cost about $60 million, Blatnik said.

The Watershed Solutions group hopes that part of a $15 million state grant, awarded in late 2018 and earmarked for flood control along Eagle Creek, can help pay for engineering the smaller basin, which would rely on pumps to move water.

The group has discussed plans for the smaller basin with the Hancock County commissioners. Those talks were held in closed executive session due to discussion about property acquisition, Commissioner Tim Bechtol said.

Bechtol was contacted by The Courier following Monday’s Rotary luncheon. He is chairman of the board of commissioners this year, and represents the commissioners on the Blanchard River Watershed Solutions group.

The group includes business, government and private citizens, along with representatives of Hancock United for a Better Blanchard, or HUBB, and Citizens United for a Better Blanchard, or CUBB.

Bechtol said so far the commissioners have not promised money from the state grant to pay for engineering of the smaller basin.

He said the terms of the state grant are still not known, and the funds will require a local match. The grant money is being held by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It will most likely be up to the commissioners to decide how best to spend the grant money.

“The commissioners’ office has a lot of other flood initiatives that we are working on, and what we’re hoping is the state sees that all of those projects provide flood relief for Eagle Creek,” he said.

The commissioners’ plans include continuing to pursue modifications to the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge as it crosses the Blanchard River in Findlay’s downtown. Supports for the bridge currently serve as a pinch point in the river.

Plans also include elevating main transportation corridors above flood level, and continued purchase and demolition of structures in the flood plain.

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