By DENISE GRANT
DEFIANCE — The Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, Defiance, now owns about 417 acres in Hancock County’s Eagle Township, which it considers central to the construction of a proposed floodwater storage basin.
On Tuesday, Clark Lynn Army, general manager of the conservancy district, said that’s about half of what is needed for the basin.
“Ideally, we’d like to have about 800 acres. The bigger the basin is, the less it will cost to build,” Army said, following Tuesday’s regular meeting of the conservancy district board.
By comparison, Findlay’s reservoirs in Marion Township combined are about 831 acres, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The basin will remain dry when not in use, and the area will most likely be used for outdoor recreation.
Engineers have priced the basin as high as $402 million to construct. Steve Wilson, a former Hancock County engineer, now project manager for the conservancy district, said the goal is to keep the price tag at about $60 million, paid with state grant money. The State of Ohio has already contributed $15 million to the project, enough to pay for engineering and to begin property acquisitions. Wilson said another $45 million in state funding is being sought.
Keeping the price low means the basin will need to be broad to make it large enough to store floodwater from an 100-year flood, like the one of August 2007, while keeping down the expense of moving dirt.
Once constructed, Wilson said the basin would hold enough water to keep Eagle Creek in its banks from the basin to East Sandusky Street during an 100-year event, and drop floodwater 1.5 feet on Findlay’s Main Street.
Earlier this month, the conservancy district purchased a 264-acre farm owned by former Hancock County Commissioner Steve Oman, according to records published by the Hancock County Auditor’s Office last week, with no purchase price listed. The farm is bordered by Eagle Township Road 49 to the north, and straddles Eagle Creek just west of U.S. 68, near Eagle Township 168.
Oman was once a vocal opponent of flood control in Findlay, arguing in favor of only cleaning the river and preserving the farmland. He then ran for commissioner in the 2014 Republican primary on the platform, and lost to incumbent Phillip Riegle.
Oman, of 13123 Hancock County 9, is a farmer. He served two terms as a commissioner between 1997 and 2005.
The second parcel, with 59.258 acres, is bordered by Eagle Township Road 77 to the west and stops short of a meandering Eagle Creek to the west near the Hancock County 172 intersection. The former owner of the smaller property is listed as a trust, with Joe E. Brown as trustee. No purchase price is listed.
Information on two additional properties bought by the conservancy district earlier this month has not yet been filed with the auditor’s office.
Eventually, Army said purchase prices will be released publicly once land negotiations for the basin have ended.
In all, property acquisition is expected to cost about $25.4 million.
Another $4.3 million would be needed for road and bridge modifications in the area. Eagle Township 49 most likely will be entirely vacated and replaced with a new roadway configuration for area residents, including the Springlake subdivision. Residents regularly use the road to access the subdivision.
Once constructed, it will cost about $100,000 annually to operate and maintain the basin. Upkeep would include mowing, debris removal, maintenance of the basin’s outlet and emergency spillway, and maintenance of public access locations. So far, there is no recommendation on how that expense should be addressed in the future.
The conservancy district board is expected to ask its court to officially make the project part of its work plan in May.
The court, which meets once a year, includes common pleas court judges from all 15 counties served by the conservancy district. It must approve any new projects within the conservancy district before work can proceed.
The conservancy district serves Allen, Auglaize, Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Lucas, Mercer, Paulding, Putnam, Shelby, Van Wert, Williams and Wood counties.
Between now and May, Stantec engineers must finalize configuration plans and provide a cost-benefit ratio for the basin. The plan must also receive approval from federal regulators.
In other business Tuesday, the conservancy district board opened bids on the Putnam County diversion channel project.
There were eight bids on the project, with Haynes Construction, Norwalk, submitting the lowest bid at $3.7 million. The bid must now be reviewed. The contract most likely will be awarded next month.
A land right claim with two Putnam County property owners for construction of a diversion channel at Ottawa has been settled. That project has been tied up in litigation since the fall of 2016.
The 4,000-foot diversion channel is planned for the northwestern side of Ottawa. Nearly 200,000 cubic yards of dirt will be removed during the construction of the channel.
The diversion channel is expected to lower floodwater in downtown Ottawa by 6 inches during a 100-year flood.