WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today applauded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) announcement that the Blanchard River Flood Reduction Project (BRFRP) has reached an important milestone. During a press conference in Findlay today, officials from the USACE Buffalo District outlined the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) – approved by USACE headquarters last month – which will guide efforts to advance the flood risk management project on the Blanchard River.
“We’re one step closer to approving a final flood mitigation plan for the Blanchard River,” Brown said. “I applaud community members and business partners for advancing this effort, and will continue to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to work quickly to advance this project and complete the Chiefs Report.”
The Blanchard River has repeatedly spilled over its banks, causing severe flooding in the City of Findlay and the Village of Ottawa. In 2007, the area suffered its most damaging flooding in nearly 100 years, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate and halting operations at Marathon, Cooper Tire, and other area businesses. The flood caused $50 million in damages in Findlay and $20 million in damages in Ottawa.
Approval of the TSP is a crucial step in completing a final plan, or “Chief’s Report,” and beginning construction to address the flooding threat. According to USACE, public meetings will be scheduled for community members to give input on the TSP, and completed feasibility and environmental impact studies are expected in the coming months. These reports are required before the USACE can issue a Chief’s Report which is mandatory before Congress can authorize construction funding.
Brown has worked with the BRFRP Coalition to encourage USACE to move quickly on the Blanchard River mitigation project. In March 2014, Brown announced that the Army Corps 2014 Work Plan included $1.5 million for the USACE Buffalo District to complete its Chief’s Report on the BRFRP. The announcement was the culmination of more than a yearlong effort by Brown and his colleagues who have worked to ensure that the Blanchard River project receives the funding necessary for its completion. In Jan. 2014, Brown and his colleagues sent a letter urging USACE to follow recommendations of the bipartisan Senate-House appropriations bill that would benefit BRFRP.
In May 2013, Brown and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) included a provision to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that makes BRFRP eligible to receive federal funding for construction upon completion of a Chief’s Report. Before that amendment, BRFRP would not have been eligible until the next WRDA reauthorization.
In May 2012, Brown, Portman, and Latta urged USACE Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh to implement an accelerated timetable to address flooding, noting the involvement of community and private sector partners who had raised $6.2 million in funding toward the construction.
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.