Farmers cool to diversion channel
By DENISE GRANT
Hancock County Commissioner Brian Robertson announced Friday that local officials have asked the Army Corps of Engineers to take another look at using Aurand Run as a path for a western diversion channel. It's a move meant to appease area farmers, who have grown more vocal in their opposition to the plan.
The corps has recommended a diversion channel that would follow a glacial groove through the countryside west of Findlay, with the goal of not having to cut through surface-level bedrock. Robertson said that recommendation is a "major sticking point" with farmers.
William Recker, a farmer and former Hancock County commissioner, said Monday there's not much about the flood-control plan that farmers do like.
He said the agriculture community supports only three initiatives: cleaning debris and blockages out of the river, continuing to clear the floodway of flood-prone structures, and flood-proofing Findlay's downtown.
Recker's family owns about 400 acres of land on Findlay's east side, which wouldn't be affected by a diversion channel. But he is concerned about the proposed construction of a levee or dike to stop the Blanchard River from overflowing into Lye Creek during a flood.
About 100 acres of the family farm is most likely to experience worse flooding if the dike is built, Recker said.
"We've all expressed our concerns and, as a group, we stick together. We have a lot of concerns about the diversion, the dike and the detention ponds," he said. "We have no idea if these things are going to work."
Even with all the flood measures in place, Recker said Findlay will still flood.
"Let's face it, Findlay was built in a hole," he said.
Steve Oman, a farmer and critic of flood-control proposals, said Monday he didn't think the Aurand Run diversion channel would attract support.
"I don't know why Findlay or anyone else would support it, until they deal with the drainage" problems, said Oman, who also is a former Hancock County commissioner.
"There is nothing that they are going to do that will help, until the river is cleaned and we get that 45 percent of the river's capacity back," he said.
The Hancock County commissioners are expected to meet with commissioners from Hardin and Putnam counties on Thursday to set property assessments to pay for cleaning out the river.
Robertson on Monday continued to push for farmers to support the Aurand Run proposal.
"I want to sit down with the farmers. I want to brainstorm with them and I want to hear their arguments," Robertson said. "I want them get behind this plan. Get behind it, or next year, we're going to have a plan that has the diversion channel where you don't want it."
Robertson has said the corps' flood-control plan does not work without a diversion channel.
Following Aurand Run, he said, will be "significantly more expensive," although estimates are not yet available.
The proposed channel would stretch from Eagle Creek, near the Boy Scouts' Camp Berry, to the Blanchard River just west of Findlay. The channel, which would remain dry at most times, would divert water during a 100-year flood from Eagle Creek and the Blanchard River in Findlay.
If the corps' did not favor the Aurand Run channel, the cost of building it would be all locally-paid.
All worth it, Robertson said, to protect the agriculture community. The proposal cuts the amount of farm ground needed to build the channel by half, from 211 acres to 102 acres.
Building a channel alongside Aurand Run, rather than cutting a new channel elsewhere, also would mean less obstacles for farmers in their fields.
Robertson called it a good compromise between the rural and urban interests in the flood plan.
The corps' tentative flood plan goes for state review within three weeks.
"I want the farmers to help me make the argument in Columbus that this is the best path for Hancock County's future," Robertson said.
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