FINDLAY — After a full day of testimony, six area judges said they will make a decision within the next 30 days about forming a separate Blanchard River Watershed Conservancy District to address flooding problems along the river.
Judge Randall Basinger, of Putnam County Common Pleas Court, presided at Monday’s hearing in Hancock County Common Pleas Court that included testimony both for and against the separate conservancy district. Most of the morning testimony included officials recounting how the flood had affected the Findlay and Ottawa communities and Hancock and Putnam County.
Tony Iriti, president of the Northwest Ohio Flood Coalition, gave a history of floods in the region including five of the top 10 historical floods in Ottawa have occurred since 2005. In Findlay, three of the top historical floods have occurred since 2007.
Expert witnesses were brought in to discuss the geological and health effects of the Blanchard River and flooding.
Dr. Daniel May, a geologist from the University of Findlay, said the amount of flooding seen in this part of Ohio in the last decade was a “little unusual.”
Dr. Timothy Buckley from Columbus, an environmental health scientist, spoke of the effect of floods on the health of residents including pathogens and chemicals that get in the water.
“Unfortunately some effects, like cancer, you may not see for several years,” he said.
Several township trustees, farmers and other landowners spoke against the separate conservancy district. Most expressed the opinion that the area is already part of the Maumee Valley Conservancy District and another conservancy district was not needed. Landowners also expressed concerns about the costs for mitigation of flooding and how it would affect landowners outside the communities of Ottawa and Findlay.
Jay Begg, of Allen County, said he objected to the new conservancy district because it would be “a new and very powerful bureaucracy.”
Witnesses also expressed concerns about giving taxation and eminent domain powers to a board that is not elected.
If approved, the Blanchard River Watershed Conservancy District would oversee flood-control projects and their maintenance in the Blanchard River watershed. The conservancy district includes areas in Hancock, Putnam, Allen, Wyandot, Hardin and Seneca counties. Putnam County Judge Randall Basinger has been selected to serve as the presiding judge of the Blanchard River Watershed Conservancy District.