Former Division of Wildlife Director Dave Sheets is among a group of county residents who believe the proposed logjam project along the Auglaize River should be reconsidered, while Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart is claiming the project still needs to move forward.
The project is being proposed to help reduce flooding caused by the river, supporting Reinhart’s claim that the project is needed.
Sheets said that the project is not fiscally sound for county residents at this time.
“Auglaize County has previously attempted to obtain state and federal grants for this project and was unsuccessful due to the project being fiscally and environmentally unsound,” Sheets said. “In the current economic climate this is not the time to levy a million dollar tax on affected landowners and a maintenance assessment which will be placed forever on an individual’s property.”
The project originally included 214 miles of the river and watershed area through Allen, Auglaize, Shelby, Mercer, Van Wert and Putnam counties. However, after a public meeting also held Sept. 13 in Fort Jennings, the joint board overseeing the project elected to not include 18 miles of riverway extending from the Putnam-Allen County border after six residents voiced their opposition to the plan. Dan Ellerbrock, a drainage specialist at Allen Soil and Water Conservation District, said that stretch of river will be further evaluated for information to take back to the joint board.
Property owners living within the Wapakoneta city limits will have a $25 cost per parcel owned to cover the work and support a maintenance fund. However, Wapakoneta City Council members agreed earlier this year
that presently-leveled taxes already cover the project and that there would be no increase in their property taxes.
Sheets also noted that research for the project may be outdated.
“The Auglaize County portion of this project was based on a river survey done in 2002, not 2011,” Sheets said.
While Sheets agreed that true logjams should be removed from the river, he said he felt that the project was larger than it needed to be.
“If property owners do not accomplish removing the logjams on their own, then let’s look at the river later this fall and find where there are currently logjams,” Sheets said. “We need to revise the project from a ‘Cadillac’ and turn it into a ‘Ford’ effort at a much reduced cost to county taxpayers. I believe that this revised project approach would be more easily accepted by county residents.”
Sheets said that completing the project would not prevent flooding according to information that he heard at the public meeting held Sept. 13 and that it was not clear that it would reduce the length of time flooding would occur.
Reinhart said the Auglaize River and logjams on the river have been a problem for more than two decades.
“When I first took over as county engineer, we would have to post high water signs on Townline-Lima Road once or twice a year and seldom had to close it,” Reinhart said. “Now we are posting the signs half a dozen times and the road is being closed two or three times a year. This is just one example. If we didn’t feel this needed to be done, we wouldn’t have proposed removing $1.2 million worth of logjams.”
Townline-Lima Road is located five miles upstream north of Wapakon-eta.
While Reinhart conceded the last survey of river logjams was nearly a decade ago, he said that does not eliminate the need.
“The logjams don’t simply go away,” Reinhart said. “They just move. There is actually more of a problem now than we inventoried eight years ago.”
Reinhart pointed to another spot that could get worse if work is not done on the river.
“We have a clump of five trees leaning at more than 45 degrees right behind a sewage treatment plant,” Reinhart said of a plant east of Wapakoneta. “They need to be flush cut so they are not catching debris. If it is not addressed, they will eventually block more than 75 percent of the water going downstream into downtown.”
The county engineer pointed out that without intervention logjams “do not miraculously go away.”
Reinhart agreed with Sheets that the logjam project is not a “be all-end all” solution to flooding, but that the project would drastically improve the river flow and greatly reduce flooding.