A stranger walks up to you and grabs your coat. He tells you it’s worth $5, hands you the money for a coat you paid $40 for and walks away.
Later on, the stranger realized he doesn’t even really need a coat. It’s not getting as cold as he worried it might.
In an admittedly oversimplified way, this is the issue at hand in Putnam County, where a lawsuit awaits a ruling on an eminent domain case (Eminent domain case in Ottawa being appealed, July 2).
The Maumee Watershed Conservancy District wants to build a diversion channel along the Blanchard River to try to keep the flood-prone river from flooding. The owners didn’t accept the $146,234 offered for 19 acres. When they couldn’t come to an agreement, it went to court to see if the watershed could take the property with eminent domain.
We’re opposed to eminent domain. Your private property is yours to do what you please with, so long as your uses for it don’t violate the rights of your neighbors. And we’re really uncomfortable with a government entity eyeing your property, offering you less than you think it’s worth and then taking it and paying what it wanted if you decline the original offer.
It’s doubly difficult when you’re talking about the flood-prone Blanchard River.
Among other questions is whether the river is actually still flood-prone. Yes, 15 of the highest 25 crests in the history of the river occurred in the last 15 years, showing there was a problem. Yet none of those are in the past two years.
In fact, the river has only reached its flood stage of 23 feet three times since the beginning of 2014, and it hasn’t topped that level since December 2015.
Since then, the Road I-9 bridge has been redesigned so it doesn’t act as a dam, holding back water. Residents along the river did a better job cleaning up debris and managing the banks better. The removal of homes within the floodplain made a difference too.
The rainfall hasn’t changed substantially, but the results have. Water hasn’t rolled over Main Street in Ottawa and into local businesses’ first floors. Buildings haven’t sustained water damage.
It’s completely possible the problem has been solved for the time being.
There are also unique issues that come with diversion channels. The idea is to send water down them when there’s additional flow on the rivers. But you’re literally digging new tributaries through people’s land, in many cases farmland.
That means in addition to losing the actual farmland, the landowners would have to travel around the diversion channels with their farm implements. It’s wasted time, wasted effort and wasted farmland.
Now it’s up to the Court of Appeals t0 figure out what to do next with this case. It doesn’t have to be, though.
It’s time to divert the plans for the diversion channel until we know for sure if the less intrusive solutions already in place solved the problem. The Maumee Watershed Conservancy District should shelve this project, and both sides should withdraw the lawsuits before any more taxpayer money gets wasted on something that might not even be necessary.
There’s no reason for the government to swipe your coat if it’s not nearly as cold as everyone expected.