WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the U.S. Senate voted on components of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) today, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) applauded the Senate’s passage of an amendment Brown introduced and Portman cosponsored that could expedite projects like the Blanchard River Flood Mitigation Project (BRFRP). The amendment would ensure projects are eligible for federal construction funds upon completion of their U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) Chief of Engineer’s Report and Senate approval. Without this amendment, BRFRP would not be eligible to receive federal construction funds from USACE until the next WRDA authorization. Prior to the current water resources bill, the Senate last considered a WRDA bill in 2007.
“This is great news for the Ottawa and Findlay communities,” Brown said. “I applaud the Senate for passing my amendment that ends an arbitrary waiting game for important projects like the Blanchard River Flood Risk Management Project. These communities have invested time and valuable financial resources into getting this project underway, and it’s critical that the U.S. Army Corps continue to do the same by providing the appropriate funds for its completion. Because of today’s vote, this process will now be quicker.”
“The Blanchard River Flood Protection project is critical for the region’s economic future, and this amendment will help Congress prioritize the project once the Army Corps of Engineers completes its final assessment and recommendation to Congress,” Portman said. “Although much work remains to solve the communities’ problems, this amendment provides an expedited path forward to enable Congress to do more to help communities like Findlay and Ottawa in overcoming flood mitigation challenges.”
BRFRP, viewed by USACE as a model for the rest of the country, is a first of its kind flood risk management project. While the local cost-share is in place, the USACE estimates an additional $1.5 million in federal funding is needed to continue the study phase of the BRFRP.
Brown and Portman have worked with the BRFRP Coalition to encourage USACE to move quickly on the Blanchard River mitigation project. Last month, they urged USACE to commit to funds for BRFRP for the second half of fiscal year 2013. In December 2012, Brown and Portman also sent a letter to USACE urging assistance in expediting BRFRP.
In November 2011, Brown met with officials from the Army Corps of Engineers’ Buffalo District, which encompasses northern Ohio. Brown met with Deputy District Commander Martin Lewton, Deputy for Programs, Planning, and Project Management Thomas Switala, Chief of Programs and Project Management Ron Kozlowski, and Chief of Planning Major Martin Wargo. In that meeting, Brown pressed for a faster timeline on the Blanchard River Flood Mitigation Study. Brown and members of his staff also met last week with Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik, Ottawa Mayor J. Dean Meyer, Hancock County Commissioner Phil Riegle, former County Engineer Steve Wilson, and Tony Iriti, the Findlay-Hancock County Alliance economic development director.