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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

Cost to clean up Portage River still mulled


FOSTORIA - Estimating the cost and potential benefit of removing 141 logjams, 173 sandbars, and 1,906 groups of leaning trees from the east and south branches of the Portage River is no simple task.

Yesterday, Wood County Engineer Ray Huber asked commissioners from Wood, Seneca, and Hancock counties to give him until February to come up with those estimates. By then, he hopes to have enough information for commissioners to decide whether his office should continue with his analysis of the river cleanup or end the project.

More than 10,000 parcels of land that send water into the river would be affected by the proposed cleanup and assessed for the cost of removing the logjams, sandbars, and leaning trees.

"Every one of those issues has to be addressed in terms of how much it costs to go in and remove it and dispose of it," Mr. Huber said. "That's going to be a monumental task to estimate each of those and then compare the total benefit versus the total construction cost, and this is just the preliminary report."

Mr. Huber and his staff have been working on the project since August, 2007, when southern Wood County farmer Jack Stearns and some of his neighbors petitioned the county to place about 32.5 miles of the river under the county's maintenance program.

The petitioners want the waterway cleaned out from the Hancock-Wood county line north to the unincorporated community of New Rochester along U.S. 6 to prevent the river's banks from overflowing when it rains, which causes flooding, erosion, and property damage.

Mr. Stearns, who attended yesterday's meeting, said he was not surprised by the amount of time required for the engineer's office to assess the project.

"I presumed it would be several years before we would get it done," he said, adding that however long it takes, the work needs to be done.

"Whether it's your shoes or your car or your house, everything needs maintenance," Mr. Stearns said. "I've been there 55 years and [the river's] had no maintenance of any kind."

County commissioners granted Mr. Huber's request for an extension of time and set the next public hearing on the matter for 2 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Good Shepherd Home in Fostoria.

- Jennifer Feehan

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