OTTAWA — After a series of meetings the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held about its Blanchard River Watershed studies during the past week, many community officials and residents think it’s a step in the right direction.
Altering the I-9 Bridge embankment was part of four proposed alternative plans. People such as Don Croy have said before that the bridge abutment acts as a dam and exacerbates the flooding problem in Ottawa.
“Of all the ones they have, that would be the biggest bang for their buck,” said Croy, who’s a board member with the Blanchard River Watershed Conservancy. “So of course, they want to do it as soon as possible. If something looks really good about it, it’s only going to cost $1 [million] to $2 million. We can afford it if we want to.”
While the modification of the I-9 bridge is estimated at $1 million to $2 million, other alternative plans proposed, such as adding nonstructural measures, offline storage and channel diversion, all in addition to the modifications, could add $78 million, $16 million and $8 million to estimated costs, respectively.
Looking at estimates between $120 million and $150 million for the entire project from Findlay to Ottawa, Putnam County Engineer Terrence Recker said he wasn’t sure if all the work would be worth the money.
“We feel that for the money that’s going to be spent, we don’t know whether it’s going to be a big benefit or not. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Recker said.
He’s not sure if working on the I-9 Bridge embankment will help much, either.
“We had a consultant come do a study back before we built the bridge,” Recker said, back before the bridge was built in 1996. “The Army Corps had reviewed their study and said they had done nothing wrong. That was the latest and the greatest thing that they had out during that time, and all the consulting firms used that for their bridge design.”
Even with the other things that will be fixed, flooding will still occur sometimes.
“Some downtown people think they’re going to completely eliminate the flooding forever,” Recker said, “And that’s never going to happen.”
“We’ll never get rid of the flooding in Ottawa, but it’ll reduce the flooding, and that’s what we need to do,” Croy said.
Along with alternative I-9 bridge embankment projects, four projects focused on a diversion of Eagle Creek, in Findlay, which is also blamed for a lot of the flooding that goes on.
The flooding in 2007 alone, the worst in nearly 100 years, caused $50 million in damages in Findlay and $20 million in damages in Ottawa. On Monday night, Mike Pniewski of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District said the project is certainly not something that can be done quickly.
“After the plan is selected, and then the plan has to be optimized to scale in terms of getting a more detailed design,” Pniewski said at a public meeting. “Then Congress has to authorize that project to enact, and then they have to appropriate monies to that project.”
There’s a 30-day comment period for residents to express their concerns. From there, the study continues, along with the Army Corps choosing a project, which can go as late as 2015. And then the design phase would begin, and construction would be set to start in fiscal year 2017.
Ottawa Mayor J. Dean Meyer said the study is a step in the right direction, including I-9 Bridge embankment reconstruction. City officials will review the plans, but he has confidence in what the Army Corps has said.
“We’re going to have a little input, but they’re the professionals,” Meyer said. “I would think we’d take their recommendations. I’m a little disappointed in the timing that they’re saying, but ... it takes an awful lot of time.”