River project top concern

Concerns over correct information being disseminating regarding the Auglaize River logjam project appeared to be the chief concern of residents during the Auglaize Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) board of supervisors’ annual planning meeting held Wednesday at the Auglaize

County Fairgrounds.

With approximately 35 people in attendance, four small groups voiced their concerns with the project as being at or near the top of the list for discussion.

SWCD Administrator T.J. Place said the concerns showed people need to look into the $1.2 million proposal so they can make an educated decision.

“There have been some weird rumors made about the logjam removal project,” Place said. “There was even one floating around about there being a proposal to put a bike path along the river in the easement area. That is simply not true.”

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 that stretch of river will be further evaluated for information to take back to the joint board.

Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart, a supporter of the project, said the project would not be an end-all,- cure-all but would drastically reduce flooding along the river.

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, Wapakoneta City Council members earlier agreed that presently-levied taxes already cover the project and that there would be no increase in their taxes.

City officials present said city residents needed to be shown that there would not be tax hikes caused by the project.

The matter of more frequent use of cover crops was also discussed, and board members said they hope to make the practice more prevalent in the county. Cover crops, such as radishes, serve as a “green manure” in the planting offseason and can help with soil erosion by reducing water flow rate and quantity. It also helps with prevented weeds from germinating and helps with soil managibility and fertility.

Management of water through ditches and tiles also was discussed, as ditch projects were estimated to be approximately five years behind due to state funding issues.

SWCD President John Schwarck said the board would like to attack those issues in the new year.

“A lot of the money that we get is earmarked for specific projects,” Schwarck said. “I think it is obvious that there are projects that people have prioritized that they rather see taken care of.”

Schwarck said redirecting funds is possible, but it could be a lengthy process.

“Yes it is possible,” Schwarck said. “But you have to go through the state and through Washington. The process will be lengthy and involved.”

Schwarck encouraged county residents to attend a public meeting at 4 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Allen County Fairgrounds to discuss concerns with the Auglaize River project.

“I think people need to go to the source and get their information,” Schwarck said. “There have been a lot of false rumors discussed at the coffee shops and a lot of answers will be discussed at the meeting.”