Tuesday, Oct 25, 2016
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Corps allocates $20,000 for Blanchard River study

Funding called lifeline for flood-control project


Flooding has plagued the Blanchard River for years, costing Ottawa, Findlay, and other communi-ties in Putnam and Hancock counties millions of dollars in damages.

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FINDLAY — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $20,000 this fiscal year to the Blanchard River flood-control project.

The money will be assigned to the $3 million third, and final, phase of a study to determine a preferred method to manage the river’s flooding and prepare the Chief’s Report, which must be completed before any construction can begin. The study’s target date for completion is early 2015.

Mike Pniewski, a corps project manager, said the corps originally could not provide funding this fiscal year because the project was not on last year’s fiscal budget, a rule put in place as the result of Washington’s continuing budget resolution.

“Essentially, the biggest impact of the $20,000 is it helps us manage the risk of being subject to the possibility of similar provisions tied to future funding,” Mr. Pniewski said.

The decision to appropriate the federal funding was praised this week by U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green). The three congressmen drafted a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the army for civil works, on July 1 that stated federal funding for the project was important for the area’s economic viability.

“The Blanchard River flood protection project is critical for the region’s economic future, and I am happy that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responded to our calls to identify funds to provide a lifeline for this project to continue,” Mr. Portman said.

However, the $20,000 appropriated still falls well short of the $325,000 the letter said was the estimated federal need to fund the project the rest of the fiscal year.

“These funds are a step in the right direction,” Mr. Brown said. “However, more work needs to be done.”

Communities along the Blanchard in Hancock and Putnam counties have to raise $1.5 million for the study to fulfill their minimum 50 percent funding share — and they could be on the hook for more if federal funds for the other half can’t be secured.

Mr. Pniewski said if not enough money can be raised, the study could be halted.

Findlay mayor Lydia Mihalik said the city is excited that its congressional representatives were able to advocate to the corps on the city’s behalf.

“It may not seem like a whole lot in terms of dollars, but what it basically means to us is a continuation of the project and eligibility for future funding in the next fiscal year,” she said. “So we are very happy and very optimistic ... and look forward to the Tentatively Selected Plan and eventually the Chief’s Report.”

Work on the project won’t begin until at least 2017 — a decade after a 2007 flood cost Findlay $100 million in damage, and downstream Ottawa $20 million.

Contact Sam Gans at: sgans@theblade.com or 419-724-6516.

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