Latta urges step-up in federal flooding funding


FINDLAY - U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), who tried to keep the federal government shut down because he believes its spending has spiraled out of control, co-signed a letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday that urges the Corps to step up federal funding for his district so that a major study examining ways to prevent future Blanchard River flooding can be completed by the end of 2015.

The study's third and final phase is expected to cost $3 million. The eventual water-control work, which would encompass re-engineering miles of land, ditches, and streams between Findlay and Ottawa, is expected to cost as much as $150 million.

The letter, co-signed by Mr. Latta and Ohio's two U.S. senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, did not specify a dollar amount but urged the Corps to allocate "significant additional resources" to finish the study, which has taken years to develop.

The study is seen as an important blueprint for a massive engineering project that would help area residents and the business community from incurring future losses. The Blanchard has been prone to flooding for years, largely a result of development patterns. The attempt to fix the problem began following a 2007 flood that caused at least $70 million in damages.

Mr. Latta was one of 144 House Republicans - eight from Ohio - who voted earlier this month to keep the nation's historic 16-day partial shutdown of government services intact.

The congressman's spokesman, Laura Strange, said Mr. Latta's vote on the shutdown and his support for more spending on the study are "two different issues."

She deferred questions about budgetary numbers to Brian J. Robertson, a Hancock County commissioner who has led discussions about the study. Mr. Robertson was not available Tuesday night.

Mr. Latta is comfortable asking the Corps to accelerate funding because the federal government isn't picking up the entire tab, Ms Strange said.

"This is a project the local community is investing in, as well," Ms. Strange said.

Under the agreement, federal money would pay for 65 percent of the least expensive option.

The other 35 percent, as well as anything beyond the cheapest alternative, is to be paid by non-federal sources.

Local officials believe they can raise enough money to cover the non-federal share from revenue generated by a countywide tax voters approved in 2009.

The request was sent to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.

The Corps did not comment about it. "The news release [from Mr. Latta and the two senators] speaks for itself," Bruce Sanders, Corps spokesman, said.

Officials said last summer the top priority is a plan that calls for a major deepening and widening of a channel west of Findlay known as Aurand Run. That option is expected to cost more, but be less intrusive to farmers.

If the design is completed by the end of 2015, work could begin in 2017 - a decade after the 2007 flood.

By some estimates, that flood cost Findlay $100 million in damage and cost Ottawa, Ohio, $20 million.

Contact Tom Henry at: or 419-724-6079.