WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Rob. Portman (R-OH), Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH-5) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4) sent a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works urging assistance in expediting the Blanchard River Flood Reduction Project (BRFRP).
“The U.S. Army Corps’ completion of the Chief’s Report is crucial to expediting a solution to flooding of the Blanchard River,” Sen. Brown said. “The Ottawa and Findlay 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 to complete the Report.”
“The Blanchard River Flood Protection project is critical for the region’s economic future, and I hope that the Corps continues to work with Findlay, Ottawa and other local communities to ensure that this project is completed in a timely manner so that local residents and businesses are protected from future flooding,” said Portman, who met with officials from the Northwest Ohio regional delegation last week and expressed his commitment to the project and offered his continued assistance to see that the project moves forward.
“To advance the progress that the Blanchard River Flood Protection project has made, it is critical that the project remains on an accelerated timeline and continues to be included in the 3x3x3 program,” said Latta. “The BRFRP is an excellent national example of how local communities and USACE can work closely together to find permanent solutions that safeguard against any future flooding in communities such as Ottawa or Findlay.”
“Findlay, Ottawa and the surrounding communities have come together as outstanding advocates for this project, and our delegation is optimistic that the President and the Army Corps of Engineers will recognize our commitment and help the project reach completion,” Jordan said.
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 flood event 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.
The senators and congressmen are hopeful that the project’s inclusion in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) new “3x3x3” pilot demonstration program will result in an expedited timeline for completion of USACE’s Chief’s Report on its findings on how to go about mitigating flooding in the region. The 3x3x3 program was developed to reduce the time it takes for the USACE to produce reports, cut costs, and reduce the number of reviews to just those that are necessary for the decision making process. Given the relatively narrow set of potential options for the Blanchard River, and the urgency with which construction needs to get underway, the new process seems especially appropriate.
Unless a Chief’s Report is completed, no funding for construction can lawfully be authorized. Even more, authorization for construction can only happen in the Water Resources Development Act, which has not been taken up in Congress since 2007. Ideally, the Chief's Report will be completed in 2013 so as to improve the chances of authorizing the project construction in reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act, which the Senators are hopeful will be brought to the floor in the next Congress.
Brown has worked with the BRFRP Coalition to encourage the Army Corps of Engineers to move quickly on the Blanchard River mitigation project. In November 2011, he 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.
The full text of the letter is below.
December 7, 2012
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0108
Dear Secretary Darcy:
We are writing to thank you and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for your continued assistance in expediting the process for achieving a permanent solution to Blanchard River flooding.
Stakeholders in Findlay and Ottawa tell us they have seen a noticeable difference in the project’s progress since it was included in the USACE’s new “3x3x3” pilot demonstration program. As you know, the 3x3x3 program was developed to reduce the time it takes for the USACE to complete project reports, cut costs and reduce the number of reviews to just those that are necessary for the decision making process. Given the relatively narrow set of potential options for the Blanchard River, and the urgency with which construction needs to get underway, the new process seems especially appropriate. We are hopeful that the project’s inclusion in the demonstration program will result in an expedited timeline for completion of the Chief’s Report. Ideally, the Chief's Report will be completed in 2013 so as to improve the chances of authorizing project construction in reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act.
According to USACE – Buffalo District, completion of the Chief’s Report will require an additional $1.7 million in federal funding. We ask that you include the necessary funding for this project in your budget process. The local share for this element of the project is available.
As part of the effort to expedite completion of the overall project, the local sponsor and the USACE – Buffalo District have identified several small component projects certain to be included in the final plan, such as modifications to the I-9 bridge in Ottawa, that the local sponsor could begin immediately. We understand that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with USACE is the mechanism through which local sponsors are able to ensure credit for such work. We would ask that the USACE – Buffalo District work with the BRFRP Coalition on the MOU at the appropriate time to advance these important component projects with the goal of expediting the overall project.
We applaud the USACE and the local communities for working so closely on this critical project. This partnership continues to be a model for other communities to follow and one we are proud to support.
Again, we greatly appreciate your assistance and leadership with respect to advancing the BRFRP. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.