Residents to be assessed for logjam project

Auglaize County residents are to be among those in six counties affected by a proposed Auglaize River stream enhancement project being spearheaded by the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).
Two hearings have been scheduled for landowners on Sept. 13, one at 2 p.m. at the Fort Jennings American Legion, and one at 7 p.m. at the Junior Fair Building at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds in Wapakoneta.
Auglaize County is expected to be the most affected area, covering 94,608 acres (44 percent) of the total project. Other counties involved include Allen, Van Wert, Putnam, Shelby and Mercer. In total, the proposed project would cover 216,141 total acres and 76 miles of stream. Approximately 11,000 parcels and 30,00 landowners are expected to be impacted.
The project’s primary focus is removing wood debris from the river and overhanging trees that are likely to fall into the river at some point in the future. Removed wood is to be left on the outer tree line and homeowners are to be responsible for its disposal.
“The goal is to create a free-flowing stream over the course of the river,” said Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart.
Reinhart said Dan Ellerbrock, Allen County SWCD drainage coordinator and leader of the project, has experience with similar projects.
“This is his fourth logjam project,” Reinhart said. “He is very educated on the subject.”
Reinhart said the project is a debris-removal project only, so no deep-
ening or widening of the river is to be involved. Leaning trees are to be flush-cut, which should prevent stumps from later falling into the river.
Assessments to landowners are to be based on where a landowner’s water enters into the river, with the range varying from as little as $1 per acre up to $10 per acre. The assessment also creates a maintenance fund to allow for future upkeep projects as needed.
“I am convinced the future maintenance will be minimal,” Reinhart said. “This river is relatively straight and the turns it does have are gradual.”
Reinhart said the work has been a long time coming.
“If we had a 6-inch rainfall right now we would be flooded,” Reinhart said. “Over the course of time the river cannot take the amount of water that it takes from the watershed.”
One local landowner talked about problems with flooding from the river and the need for the project. Joe Walters, owner of Walter & Sons Meats, in Wapak-oneta, said the last flood nearly closed his business.
“Another flood like the last one would likely put us out of business,” Walters said. “We lost a lot of product and equipment. It was devastating. We had $13,000 in refridgeration repair alone. That doesn’t even include product or other equipment loss.”
Wapakoneta City Administrator Bill Rains said Wapakoneta residents living within the corporation limit would not be affected by the assessments.
“Our residents will begin getting letters in the mail,” Rains said. “We want residents to be aware that the city will pay for the assessments. Residents currently pay a storm water utility charge and this assessment will be covered by those funds.”
The projected cost for the project is about $1.2 million and also is to cover Two Mile Creek beginning at Buckland-Holden Road to its outlet in the river.