The next great flood project in the Blanchard River watershed could be a flood basin along Eagle Creek, just south of Findlay … or not.
Perhaps the next project would be additional “benching,” similar to what’s being done now just west of Main Street, or elevating certain low-lying intersections in Findlay to make them passable when there is high water. Or, lest we forget, maybe widening the span of the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge in downtown to keep the water from backing up.
Actually, the project that we tackle after the current one could be none of the above, and an idea that has yet to rise to the point of public debate. Ultimately, public buy-in and money will determine what the second project, and every other one that follows, will be.
Fortunately, flood plan discussions have become a continuing conversation in a community that has decided doing nothing is no longer acceptable, and that we’ve moved past the belief that any one thing will solve a problem this big. Remember when the “experts” thought a diversion channel was all we needed to do? We’ve learned a lot since then.
While there has been broad speculation that the concept of dry storage basins was being revisited, Monday’s flood control update at the Findlay Rotary Club meeting was the first time it was talked about publicly.
Few details were released, but the proposal involves a downsizing of a plan that was pitched in 2017, when the Stantec engineering firm had recommended building three large floodwater basins in southern Hancock County, two near Mount Blanchard and one just south of Findlay, just west of U.S. 68. That concept, however, was dismissed by the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District last year because it was too expensive and lacked public support, especially among farmers and some rural residents.
The revised basin plan has moved forward primarily through the efforts of Blanchard River Watershed Solutions, a group made up primarily of community business interests. Two other groups and city and county government officials have also been involved in discussions. It involves only the Eagle Creek basin, and would make it smaller than the earlier proposal but deeper. Pumps would move water into the basin during periods of heavy rain, and out of it when the Eagle Creek water level allowed.
Capturing Eagle Creek water and temporarily holding it seems like a worthy project, considering it is a primary contributor to the flooding problem, especially when heavy rains fall south of Findlay. The main difference between the first plan and the current one is property owners in the area of the basin have apparently expressed an interest in selling the land that would be needed, and no homeowners would be forced to relocate.
It’s also more realistic, financially. The project cost has dropped from $160 million for the three basins to $60 million for one.
Still, much has to be done before the project, or any other one, rises to the top of the list. As far as the Eagle Creek basin is concerned, additional studies would be needed to determine if a deeper basin is possible. Limestone could limit depth.
Funding, too, will have be defined. There is currently about $18 million in the bank for flood projects, but $6 million of that will be spent on the ongoing benching work. Another $15 million was granted by the state to the flood relief efforts, with the possibility that more aid could come in the future.
But the exact terms of the grant, which is held by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, are still not known, and will require a local match.
Ultimately, it will be up to the county commissioners to decide how much to fund any project, and then the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District to approve and oversee it.
No question, Monday’s news is food for thought. But it’s just another option until it rises to the top of the list. At the end of the day, the next project must be the one that provides the Hancock County community the biggest bang for the buck.