FINDLAY — A day after updating Findlay officials as to the completion
schedule for the United States Army Corps of Engineers Blanchard River
flood mitigation feasibility study, USACE representatives briefed local
media. David Romano, USACE Chief of Planning, led the April 9 discussion
at the Hancock County Engineers office, Findlay, by reiterating recent
“As you already know, we have received $1.5 million in
federal funds to complete the Blanchard River feasibility study,” said
Romano. “It’s a 50/50 cost share match with the local community. Those
federal funds will be matched with the $1.35 million that the local
community has already had in place for a long time. It’s really good
news that we can come here and say, for once, the feasibility study is
Romano further stated that on April 8, local
leaders were presented with an 18 to 24 month completion schedule and
that the USACE is looking at ways to complete that study closer to the
18-month range. He also said that specifics, such as where a potential
diversion channel may run, are not, as yet, a priority. Rather, at this
point, the focus is on keeping the cost of the project as low as
possible in order to increase the chances of its ultimate approval.
In addition, Romano explained that a rigorous review process of the plan it ultimately presents is also upcoming.
“That’s happening this fiscal
year,” he said. “It’s where the Corps opens our books for independent
peer reviews, state agency reviews, public reviews that will be
occurring later this calendar year and into the next calendar year.”
the document goes for review, USACE intends to meet with the various
groups to assure their understanding of the report. The level of detail
of the comments solicited from these groups will dictate the length of
time it takes for the USACE to respond. Simplifying the responses of
reviewers by proactively addressing their questions will, in its turn,
simplify and speed up the entire process.
“So the closer we work with the communities (and) state and federal agencies, the better those reviews will go,” said Romano.
to design and construct the project provides the opportunity to seek
the requisite funding to actually begin designing and constructing the
mechanisms necessary for flood abatement .
In the simplest terms,
there is now enough money in hand for USACE to address step one: the
completion of a feasibility study (the floor plan) for Blanchard River
flood mitigation. During step two, the USACE will seek authorization to
design and construct. Once step two is attained, appropriations will be
sought through step three. In other words, the U.S. Congress must
authorize the appropriation of the monies needed to make that plan a
reality. Realistically, it will take a few years out before any physical
changes take place along the Blanchard.
“Our mission is to complete the feasibility study,” said Romano.
the course of the next two months, a hydraulic engineer will complete
quality assurance assessments on the current hydrology and hydraulics
model. According to Romano, that model is the foundation for everything
that USACE will undertake, insofar as reducing flooding along the
Blanchard Rive is concerned. The model will also allow USACE to
accurately answer questions about their plan.
Romano noted that
the entire feasibility study process is a long and very complex process,
but that this is necessary in order for the USACE to make a clear,
concise, feasible and environmentally acceptable recommendation to the
USACE Chief of Engineers. This assertion was corroborated by Jason
Phillips, assistant municipal director for the Village of Ottawa, who
explained that the hydrology and hydraulics model has been in the works
for six years already
Romano also commented that the USACE is
eager for input from local communities, which have a wealth of hand-on
information about their regions.
“We really value the experience
of the local community,” he said. “We do try to gather as much existing
data as possible. The hydrology and hydraulics model may confirm what
county engineers already know.”