OTTAWA — Putnam County will receive nearly $700,000 in additional funds to clean riverbeds, an attempt to prevent the type of major flooding that hit the area in 2007.
Work with this extended funding will begin immediately and continue until June 2010, according to Putnam County Commissioner John Love.
The funding is part of a $1.5 million National Emergency Grant awarded to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Laurie Collins, Putnam County National Emergency Grant project coordinator, said the additional money will allow her crew to finish work on the Blanchard and Ottawa rivers. It will also give them time to address log jams in the Auglaize River and look at tributaries that feed into these rivers.
“To date, we have cleared 6,000 tons of log jam debris from the waterways,” Collins said.
Since February 2008, the Putnam County project has employed 58 people, including 55 crew members. Crew members must be dislocated workers or unemployed for 16 weeks out of the last 26. Each works up to 1,040 hours at $10.50 to $11.50 per hour.
“The work of the NEG crews has removed large blockages from the rivers and waterways in our county, thereby reducing the risk of potential damage in our flood-prone area,” said Greg Luersman, Putnam County Soil and Water District technician.
In August 2007, Northwest Ohio experienced the worst flooding since 1913. On Sept. 11, 2007, the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared Putnam, Allen, Crawford, Hancock, Hardin, Richland and Wyandot Counties eligible for FEMA’s Public Assistance program.
“The NEG project in Northwest Ohio has had a beneficial impact on our community at multiple levels,” Putnam County Commissioners John Love, Travis Jerwers and Vincent Schroeder, said in a joint statement. “It has put long term unemployed people to work, provided training and skill building while on the job and increased opportunities for permanent employment once they are finished in the NEG project. It has allowed for the continued clean up of debris and the removal of large restrictive log jams that were a result of a devastating flood in August 2007.”
The logs that are cleared from the Blanchard River are recycled. On Wednesday afternoons, the logs are distributed to the public at the former Putnam County Transfer site on Road H.
“This is very popular, since it is a free service,” Collins said. “Usually by noon we have 18 or more pick-ups lined up to pick up firewood.”