Flood-Prone Ohio City Scouting Land for Solution

July 2, 2012

Federal officials who’ve been surveying land to find a place to divert water during flooding in this northwest Ohio city have run into a bit of a challenge.

Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the land along the Blanchard River’s watershed is so flat that hydrological modeling is not yet showing big differences between several potential flood-control projects.

“It’s frustrating, but I’d rather have things done right and have a solution, rather than to speed things up,” project manager Mike Pniewski told The Courier newspaper.

The Army Corps is scouting land so it can decide if it makes sense to create a diversion channel and temporary water retention for the Blanchard River.

Flood prevention has become a top priority along the Blanchard River where five major floods since 2007 have soaked the towns of 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.

Efforts to find ways to control flooding have been going on for several years, but the slowness of federally required flood studies and the uncertainty over how long it will take to build flood-control projects have led to frustration.

On June 29, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he put language into a bill that will allow Findlay to use land that had been off limits for its flood-control project.

The move will allow the government to build a levee or other flood protection projects on the land rather than having to divert around it and save the city more than $3 million, Portman said.

Surveying is taking place south and west of Findlay.

Only about 10 percent of 300 landowners have allowed workers to look at their property to see if there would be any problems with putting in diversion channels and retention ponds, Pniewski said

The low participation isn’t a surprise because of resistance expressed earlier to the flood-reduction project by some in the agricultural community, he said.