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River logjam: Objections, defense of project heard

January 11, 2012

Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart reviews a schematic drawing of the Auglaize River logjam removal project.

LIMA — The Soil and Water District Joint Board of Supervisors chose unanimously to move ahead with an expansive logjam removal project despite opposition from those in a large crowd at a public hearing held before the vote.

In excess of 300 people turned out for the meeting, many voicing opposition to the project citing a variety of reasons.

Allen Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Drainage Technician Dan Ellerbrock and Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart continued to define points on why the project was needed, but many attending the meeting voiced displeasure with the project for one reason or another.

The project originally started when 11 landowners petitioned the Allen SWCD due to gradually increasing flooding that has happened along the river’s watershed through the years. The original project was designed to cover 214 miles of

the river and watershed area through Allen, Auglaize, Shelby, Mercer, Van Wert and Putnam counties.

After a public meeting held Sept. 13 in Fort Jennings, the joint board overseeing the project elected not to include 18 miles of riverway extending from the Putnam-Allen County border after six residents voiced their opposition to the plan. The amended project covers 58 miles of river and 7.5 miles of creek.

The project cost is estimated at just more than $1 million, to be assessed onto approximately  158,000 acres of watershed. Estimated assessments range from $1.87 near the Putnam County line to $9.34 per acre upstream near Westminster.

Ellerbrock said that completion of the project would not totally prevent flooding, but that it would greatly decrease the problems in both depth of the water and how long it took to drain away from lower-lying land owners.

He said that it would reduce damage from flooding, remove conditions that jeopardized public health and safety and increase the value of land among other points.

Ellerbrock explained that expansion and property development in the drainage area have been the main contributor to the flooding problems. He said that when the area was largely woods, 2.1 inches of a 2.4 inch rain would run off without causing significant flooding. Now, with development in the area, approximately one-half inch of rain of a 2.4 inch rain would drain properly.

“If a landowner has runoff, they are legally responsible to take care of it,” Ellerbrock said. “Any time you have any kind of building, it speeds up the runoff.”

Reinhart said that landowners did not have to fear concerns about easements along the river if the project goes forward.

“The easement will be used as a drainage easement only,” Reinhart said.

Reinhart also said there now was a greater need due to the ice storm in 2003.

“Maintenance costs went up 50 percent after the ice storm,” Reinhart said. “The logjams change places or magnitude, but they don’t magically go away.”

Landowners would have the right to use wood debris as firewood or would be allowed to dispose of it in any way they see fit, Reinhart said.

Landowners were given 30 minutes each to speak in support or against the project.

Uniopolis landowner Richard Lowry felt the project needs to go forward.

“I don’t need this project, but it is my responsibility,” Lowry said. “I’m old enough to remember the clean-up from Buckland-Holden Road to Wesminster in the 1930s. It helped a lot. It’s my duty to do my share and see that this maintenance is done.”

Lee Logan, of Allen County, said the steady increase of the flooding is evident. He owns a home that sits about 500 foot above the river in the flood plane.

“We have two 24-inch tiles and we still have flooding,” Logan said. “Never before had our barn been flooded since 1939 until the ice storm. Now it is a problem.”

Many opponents of the project felt that logjams were the sole responsibility of the property owner where the logjam was collecting. Paul Reeves, of Auglaize County, said one of his problems was the approach being taken.

“My objection is that the project is being railroaded down our throats,” Reeves said. “I totally feel that there is enough of you here that know when the government gets involved, it gets screwed up.”

Michael Stuber, of Westminster, said it was solely the responsibility of the landowner.

“The river is private property and that has been established here,” Stuber said. “If the river belongs to the landowner, then the trees do also. When you buy your land you look at the geological location.”

Other arguments included destruction of habitat and the simple fact of yet another tax on individuals. Project overseers claim that the project will in fact improve wildlife habitat.

After the public hearing was closed, the joint board briefly discussed the issue before taking a vote. Lou Brown, a member of the joint board from Auglaize County, supported the decision.

“The responsibility cannot be left solely on the landowner,” Brown said. “When a log floats down the river, it doesn’t have a name tag on it.”

Ellerbrock stated after the meeting that he got the feeling that residents weren’t so much against the project as they were against paying for it.

“A lot of people don’t seem that much against the project, they just don’t eant to pay for it,” Ellerbrock said. “They are looking at it as ‘it isn’t my problem.’”

Property owners living within Wapakoneta city limits will have a $25 cost per parcel owned to cover the work and support a maintenance fund. However, the Wapakoneta City Council earlier agreed that presently-leveled taxes already cover the project and that there would be no increase in their taxes. Property owners will be assessed a minimum of $25 per parcel for the work if approved.

The project now will go in front of the represented county commissioners to evaluate the project and elect if they want to go forward. The project would need to be re-evaluated if any of the county commissioner boards vote against the project. To complicate the matter, a group of landowners in the Putnam portion of the project that was dropped now have expressed a possible interest in joining back in the project.

Comments

Auglaize

January 13, 2012 by outdoorsman (not verified), 2 years 36 weeks ago
Comment: 128

In my opinion the people who are railraoding this have personal interests involved. If you investigate this you will see who owns land supposedly affected by this decision and the use of office to manipulate and coerce into the destruction of a natural river. They not only want to remove logjams but want to kill all trees that grow at a 45 degree angle along the river which naturally lean and grow toward the sunlight. They then will place this project in the hands of ditch maintenance which will have the right to channel and remove what they deem necessary to speed water flow. The resultant erosion from bankline trees being removed will increase sediment buildup and call for further actions due to this. This is only the first step in the destruction of a natural river. once they have done the damage, the next phase will demand that rocks, boulder, and sediment buildup be removed as a result of this project. No interst whatsoever is being placed on the habitats or the blatant pollution allowed by The manure dumping farmers. This will call for a renaming of this river from "the river of fallen timbers" to the ditch of death.

The river clean up

January 12, 2012 by my two cents (not verified), 2 years 36 weeks ago
Comment: 123

I keep wondering what ever happened to this country and the rights of it's citizens. I was always told before we were taxed we had the right to have the issue put on a ballot and the taxpayers had the right to vote on the issue. I would like to know how the SIX residents from Allen and Putnam could vote opposition and the plans were dropped for them; but some 300 people show up and more of them voice opposition and a closed door meeting is held and the people at that meeting are basically told they have no voice because the project is still a go. We live approx. 9 miles outside of town in a wooded area, if I have a tree that falls on any of my neighbors property we clean it up. I don't call the township or anyone else and expect them to clean it up. The notification we got from the Soil and Water people had our acreage wrong on the letter so I went into town to speak with them. Their answer was it was on the records they got from the courthouse. I checked with the courthouse and the acreage is NOT what the Soil and Water people claimed and it has always shown the same acreage as when we bought it in 1974. Their answer to that was: they were not sure how to change it, but don't worry about it because it won't make that much difference in what they charge us! My next question: how much are we getting charged? Their answer.....we're not real sure yet. My answer to the "river clean up" gang. You have NO RIGHT to tell us (the taxpayers that are expected to foot their bill) that we are going to be charged X amounts of dollars without our vote. So far the City of Wapakoneta residents do not have to pay (and I'm glad for them), the people in Allen and Putnam county don't have to pay but the farmers and land owners that live anywhere else in Auglaize Co. that MAY have a trickle of water that MAY run into a creek, that runs into a creek and then runs into a creek will have to pay to have a log or two or ten that has fallen into the Auglaize River removed at OUR expense! I think they should come to my property, map out for me the course that any water on my property runs, show me where that water hits the Auglaize River and my husband and I will personally keep that area free of logs! Until that time, either pay for the clean up with taxpayer dollars you all ready receive from us OR tell the 11 people that wanted you to clean up their property to do it themselves..........just like the rest of us do!

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