River project moves ahead

The Auglaize County commissioners voted this week to approve the Auglaize River and Two-Mile Creek enhancement project, a project which has been met with much criticism.

Commissioners from each participating county had 60 days from March 6 to vote on the measure.  Also on March 6, a joint board made up of officials from Shelby, Allen and Auglaize counties submitted plans for the project.

Allen Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Drainage Technician Dan Ellerbrock, who is spearheading the project, said once the project is approved by the other two commissioner boards, another joint board will be formed made up of county commissioners from the three involved counties.

Landowners in the Auglaize River watershed area will get another letter notifying them of the project and will have 30 days if they choose to object to the project. Decisions both for or against the project by the county or joint boards can be appealed.

Ellerbrock  explained once the plans are approved by all three county commissioner boards, the project will go to another joint board for review of the assessment schedule.

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.

The assessment will be a one-time payment. 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 County-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.

Proponents of the project have said the project will help curb flooding and decrease the depth of floods and the length of time it takes them to go away.

Ellerbrock 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.

Many landowners have voiced objections to the project, saying they don’t want to pay the assessments and individual property owners should be responsible for blockages on their property.