Five years after a major flood swamped northwest Ohio, officials again are pushing for the completion of a flood control study of the Blanchard River area.
A six-member regional delegation including the mayors of Findlay and Ottawa traveled to Washington last week to plead for the money needed to complete the study and seek congressional support.
The flood control study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is intended to find potential flood-reduction alternatives for the river, which has had five major floods since 2007 that have caused millions of dollars in damage in Findlay and Ottawa.
The worst damage came in August 2007 when flooding caused more than $100 million in damage in Findlay and an estimated $12 million in damage in Ottawa.
The corps’ timeline to finish its final recommendations report for flood control is 2014, but the regional team is pushing to have those recommendations by the end of 2013.
The group also is stressing the importance of the federal government’s $1.7 million share of the funding needed to complete the study, The (Findlay) Courtier reported.
Former Hancock County Engineer Steve Wilson, a member of the delegation, said the corps will run out of funding for the study in April and the group needed to show federal officials that “this project is still important to us.”
Regional leaders also are hoping to get permission to start early on reconstruction of a bridge in Putnam County. Engineers have shown that the bridge’s low height causes Blanchard River backup that contributes to flooding in Ottawa.
There is some concern that the federal budget crisis and East Coast cleanup from Hurricane Sandy could hamper flood-control funding efforts. Local leaders also have said that they believe lobbying trips to Washington are essential to keep the northwest Ohio project in front of congressional officials at a time when many people are trying to gain federal favor for their projects.
A new Water Resources Development Act bill now in committee has also lent more urgency to the regional officials’ efforts, the newspaper reported. The bill would give authorization to corps-endorsed flood projects, and regional officials want the northwest Ohio study to be on that list.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who met with the delegation this past week, said he thinks the region has “a good chance” of getting the federal money that is needed for the flood study and said he would work with colleagues in Congress to “push hard to get that study completed.”
The regional officials have acknowledged that there is still some public skepticism about flood-control efforts, especially since the study is taking so long to complete.
“Some people in Ottawa think we’re just spinning our wheels,” said Ottawa Mayor J. Dean Meyer.
But Hancock County Commissioner Phil Riegle, another delegation member, is optimistic.
“I think we can realistically get that federal money next year,” Riegle said.