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FINDLAY, Ohio (AP) — The scars from flooding that swamped this northwest Ohio town are still visible five years later. What’s more troubling for residents and local leaders is that solutions to stop it from happening again are still years away.
Efforts to find ways to control flooding along the Blanchard River have been going on for several years, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it’s going to take three more years to finish studying the watershed, determine flood solutions and seek federal funding.
Already, nearly $4 million has been spent by city and county governments on flood-control efforts.
Five major floods in the last five years have soaked the towns of Findlay and Ottawa. The worst damage came in August 2007 when flooding caused more than $100 million in damage in Findlay and an estimated $12 million in damage in Ottawa.
“In our world, it’s taking way too long,” said Hancock County Engineer Steve Wilson, who works with county commissioners on flood-control efforts.
Army Corps project manager Mike Pniewski said the time spent on this project was typical. By the end of the year they will be able to present flood control options that are feasible and cost-effective, he told The Courier.
A final plan could be ready in 2015 for Congress, which has authority to allocate up to 65 percent of construction funding, Pniewski said.
Officials say they understand the public is weary and sometimes leery of the studying and how long it’s taking to complete.
Pniewski said it is necessary if the region has any chance of receiving federal funding for construction of a project that could cost tens of millions, or hundreds of millions, of dollars.
In Ottawa, officials are considering reconstructing a bridge blamed for making flooding worse.
“I think we’re getting closer to getting something substantial, to where we can say, ‘Yes, this is what we’ll be doing,”’ Ottawa Community Development Director Jeff Loehrke said.
“For the longest time we keep hearing naysayers saying, ‘There’s nothing you can do. You can’t fight Mother Nature,”’ Loehrke said. “That’s been kind of frustrating. But we’re committed to doing something and I think we can do something.”
In Findlay, some buildings in flood-prone areas have been torn down or remain vacant. An empty two-story commercial building still has a waterline on its brick walls.