Feds Say Flood Control in Northwest Ohio Could Cost $150M

December 13, 2012

Flood control for the Blanchard River in Ohio, where there have been several major floods since 2007, could cost up to $150 million or more, according to federal officials.

Flood prevention has become a top priority along the river, especially since the 2007 flooding that caused millions of dollars in damage in Findlay and Ottawa. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented tentative ideas for lessening severe flooding at a public meeting on Dec. 10 in Ottawa, and plans three more meetings this week in Ottawa and Findlay, The (Findlay) Courier reported.

The corps’ proposals would not eliminate severe flooding in the area, they could decrease floodwater levels by three feet in Findlay during the worst flooding, the corps said.

More environmental review and public comment will be required before the corps officially endorses any of its ideas. The public will have 30 days to comment beginning Dec. 13.

The methods proposed – if used together – will be the most efficient and cost-effective possible to reduce flooding, corps project manager Mike Pniewski said.

The goal is to “find the sweet spot” between viability and cost, Pniewski said. “This is it.”

One of the methods involves creating a diversion channel to redirect floodwater from Eagle Creek to the Blanchard River. An alternative to a diversion channel would be a water retention area along the creek.

Other flood-control measures could involve some property purchases by the government and the elevating of flood-prone homes and businesses in three areas in Findlay and three in Ottawa. The corps doesn’t have specifics yet on how many homes might be affected.

Another method discussed would be reconstructing the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge in Findlay. The more than 100-year-old bridge doesn’t let water flow through it well, causing backup and more flooding, Pniewski said.

The Corps also is considering four water retention areas along the river between Findlay and Ottawa.

Modifying a bridge to the west of Ottawa and realigning the river so it flows more directly to the bridge also have been proposed so that the flood peak gets out of the village quicker.

Acquiring properties through eminent domain – in which federally-funded projects deemed needed for the overall public good allow the government to forcefully buy property – is a possibility, he said.

But there is still a long way to go before any flood-control project could begin. Funding to finish the study, which is now entering its final phase, continues to be the primary concern and remains uncertain, Pniewski said.

If Congress doesn’t grant money to complete the study, regional governments have the option of picking up the approximate $1.7 million tab, but they won’t be reimbursed, he said.

Once the study is completed, a tentative plan would be presented to corps officials in the spring, with their endorsement expected in the summer. The corps then must provide more detailed design work and an environmental impact statement.

Pniewski says the plan could be presented to Congress in late 2014 or early 2015 for a decision on whether to authorize and fund the project.

The federal government could choose to fund up to 65 percent of project construction.

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