July 12, 2013
FINDLAY — U.S. Congressman Robert Latta, R-Bowling Green, feels they are making progress in getting funds reprogrammed toward the Blanchard River Flood Mitigation study.
Latta and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, met Friday morning with Putnam, Hancock, Findlay and Ottawa officials to discuss the status of further funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study on flood mitigation for the Blanchard River. The meeting was held at the Findlay Municipal Building and was a source of contention of some area farmers who gathered outside the meeting room and questioned why they had not been included in the meeting.
Portman said this meeting was only to report on the financial status and timeline of the study. He and Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik both said there was no intention to snub the agriculture community.
“We’re doing all we can to bring everyone together,” said Portman. “I hope no one thinks this flooding problem is acceptable. We can’t kick the can down the road any more on finding a solution.”
Funding for continuation of the study has become a major roadblock in the timeline of the mitigation. The Blanchard project was not funded in the federal budget for 2013 because it was not in the federal budget for 2012. In 2012, the Army Corps of Engineers was still using carry-over money from the 2011 federal budget, so no money from the 2012 budget was used for the Blanchard Flood mitigation project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently completing the tentatively selected plan that includes putting together selection solutions for the flood mitigation and presenting them to local public officials and the Army Corps Division Headquarters.
The next step, an independent peer review, has to be 100 percent federally funded.
Portman estimated $600,000 is needed to keep the study going. He expressed concern that the end of the fiscal year comes in September.
On Thursday, Latta applauded the passage of the U.S. House Energy and Water Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014, which funds critical national infrastructure programs while reducing spending below previous fiscal years and working towards a balanced budget.
Additionally, the bill includes language within the committee report that would help level the playing field among small and large cities regarding the Army Corps of Engineers’ usage of current benefit-cost analyses in its budgeting process. Currently, small communities of 50,000 or less are at a disadvantage in comparison to larger urban counterparts under the Army Corps utilization of traditional, narrow, benefit-cost analyses in its budgeting process.
“I am pleased to see this language included in the committee report, which will be helpful to smaller communities, such as Findlay and Ottawa, when competing for federal funding to assist with a region’s flood mitigation challenges,” said Latta. “The Blanchard River Flood Mitigation Project has been upheld by the Army Corps as a national model for flood risk management projects.”
There was additional language included in the committee report to help projects that were not included in the President’s FY14 budget. It also clarifies that projects could receive federal funds if they received funding in one of the three previous fiscal years.