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Published: Wednesday, 2/27/2008

Oregon City council to attack flooding problems

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In Oregon, where several homes and other properties were swamped earlier this month after heavy rains drenched the area, City Council has decided to look into ways to prevent flooding problems.

Council voted unanimously Monday night in favor of Mayor Marge Brown's 2008 budget plan which includes $70,000 to survey three major waterways in the city.

The budget includes $150,000 to remove blockage from Wolf Creek, which Paul Roman, public service director, said is the largest tributary in Oregon.

The other two waterways are Amolsch Ditch and Driftmeyer Ditch.

All three empty into Maumee Bay which empties into Lake Erie, he said.

Mr. Roman said when it rains, about one third of the rain run-off in Oregon empties into Wolf Creek.

The Amolsch and Driftmeyer ditches, which he said come together to form one waterway flowing in the center of the city, also drain a large portion of Oregon.

Monday's budget approval will pay for land surveys to determine areas that constrict the waterways' flow, Mr. Roman said.

"We just need to make sure our ditches are clear so the water can get out," he said. "We cleaned [Wolf Creek] out in about 1993 and we haven't cleaned it since."

The public service director said he wants the city to eventually increase the waterways' capacity by widening it, which would help limit flooding.

Mayor Brown said a survey study on waterways hasn't been done since the 1970s. "This is a definite priority," she said. "We have not had flooding as you would see down in Grand Rapids or down in Findlay, but there's some water that goes off of Wolf

Creek and Amolsch Ditch. We need to survey those and start clearing them We are being proactive and not reactive."

Council also voted unanimously Monday night in favor of a resolution to revise an earlier plan to cover portions of a waterway called Big Ditch with a large storm sewer pipe.

The estimated six to eight residential properties that flooded are situated along Stadium Road that runs parallel to Big Ditch.

But Mr. Roman said the open ditch's flooding is not the main reason those properties flood.

However, the open ditch's flooding causes roadway erosion, and the open ditch has caused concern because of the number of motorists who have crashed into it, said city officials.

To address those issues, the city originally planned in 2005 to cover the entire ditch with a storm pipe using about $800,000 in grant and loan money from the Ohio Public Works Commission.

But last fall, when the project was scheduled to begin, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stood in the city's way.

The Corps informed the city it wouldn't allow the project because it considers Big Ditch a natural waterway and putting a storm pipe over it could prevent water from entering it.

After that, the city filed for a six-month extension to use the public works funds during this spring.

Mr. Roman is working with Jones & Henry Engineers to comply with the Corps' standards to cover only portions of the ditch with a storm pipe.

"We'll close only those portions in front of homes to reduce the possibility of something unsafe happening in front of those residences," Mr. Roman said.

"We're not only going to do that, but 40 yards west we're going to build another [waterway] that would take storm water out to the bay as well," he said.

"The Army Corps could still say no. It's our hope that they won't but that could still happen."

Mr. Roman said it may take 30 to 60 days to get a final permit from the Corps, but once the project goes through, it will improve drainage of Big Ditch.

He hopes to begin the work in April.

"The earliest the better," he said. "There's always going to be a storm event better than any drainage design. I think it's going to improve drainage, period."

The Corps must give a 30-day public notice to inform related environmental agencies and people who could be affected by the storm pipe of what the city plans to do, said Corps representatives earlier this week, and the plan must also comply with the Clean Water Act in order for a permit to be issued.

Allen Sisselman with the Corps' Buffalo district office said the approval process could take some time.

"An average would be more than 60 days and I would say certainly less than a year," Mr. Sisselman said.

Mayor Brown said she hopes the projects will provide some relief to residents whose homes have flooded along Stadium Road.

"I'm hoping once a study is done they prove that Wolf Creek needs to be widened so maybe it takes some pressure off of Big Ditch so maybe those homes will get some relief," she said. "Maybe that's going to be the answer."



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