OTTAWA — Dan Ellerbrock, who worked for the Soil and Water Conservation District for 35 total years in Putnam and Allen Counties, presented the Putnam County Commissioners with a potential plan to improve water flow and lessen flooding in the Blanchard River yesterday, creating benches at pinch points along the river.
Pinch points are locations along the river where the banks come close together and create bottlenecks, slowing water flow down.
“At every one of these pinch points, upstream the river jumps its banks and floods,” Ellerbrock said. “After it flows through the pinch point, it flows regularly again. That’s why some places flood and others don’t.”
To reduce the effect of these pinch points, Ellerbrock is proposing the county commissioners for all six counties in the Blanchard River flood plain, beginning with Hancock and Putnam Counties, considering joining forces on a project to address the pinch points. The idea is to remove top soil at those points to a predetermined level and move it off the river bank, without affecting the waterbed directly, he said. This would replace the elevated land blocking water flow with flat floodplain for water to flow freely over, he said.
Unlike diversion channels which just gives water a straight line to bypass pinch points in rivers and this project would allow the water to move freely along the riverbed, he said.
“The diversion doesn’t do anything downstream from it,” Ellerbrock said.
He has done a similar project in a creek bed before, and it would be the same as that job, only on a much larger scale, he said. Land would need to be appropriated from land owners for the project. Unlike with eminent domain where the land is purchased by a government agency, land purchased for this project would continue to be property of the owner. The compensation given to them would be damages because that land would be rendered useless, he said.
“What is it you would like from us?” John Love, Putnam County Commissioner asked Ellerbrock.
“We would like you to call the Hancock County Commissioners in a week or two and see if they have had time to think about it,” Ellerbrock replied. “If they would be interested in getting together with you and discussing the idea or getting together with all six counties.”
While Ellerbrock said altering the river pinch points will not prevent all flooding, he believes it will have an impact on lessening flooding along the Blanchard River.
“Our hope is the commissioners can at least take this to the design phase so engineers can do the math and see if it will work,” Ellerbrock said.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.