OTTAWA — Despite rumors to the contrary, Putnam County is not distancing itself from the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the county’s efforts to curb hazardous Blanchard River flooding. In fact, the county, as an entity, is not a participating member in the study.

Last week, representatives from the Blanchard River Flood Coalition Steering Committee met with the Putnam County Commissioners to request a letter in support of the removal of the Lower Blanchard portion from USACE’s General Investigative Study. The purpose of this, according to Ottawa Assistant Municipal Director Jason Phillips, is to assure that $8 million in State of Ohio funding can be brought into play by a June 15, 2015 deadline. The monies, part of Ohio’s mid-biennial budget, must be secured by that date and are intended to address the Lower Blanchard portion of the Army Corps plan. Village of Ottawa Mayor Dean Meyer indicated that the letter of support is more a symbol of cooperation between the coalition and the county as the steering committee can move forward and acquire the funding without it. Meyer further stated that the county was never part of the study to begin with.

“The commissioners don’t have a study to pull out of,” Meyer said.

During its Aug. 4 meeting, the consensus of the Steering Committee was that the possibility exists that federal matching funds may not be available for the Lower Blanchard project when the full GIS is complete. Therefore, with State dollars already in hand, the Steering Committee voted to recommend that Ottawa move forward as rapidly as possible on the Lower Blanchard project.

However, Commissioners John Love, Vincent Schroeder and Travis Jerwers were not immediately forthcoming in their support. According to Love, his office wants to see a plan from USACE, including data that indicates that the approach to the CR I-9 bridge is exacerbating high water levels upstream of the bridge, before they pen a letter of support to be forwarded to the MWCD.

Phillips said that this information will be forthcoming from the URS Corporation, the San Francisco-based engineering, design and construction firm and a U.S. federal government contractor contracted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

The Lower Blanchard portion of the study includes all of the components that USACE has evaluated as part of the study and that they are choosing to move forward with. These components include the approach to the I-9 bridge, a diversion channel for highwater events and a wetland near Ottawa’s wastewater treatment plant.

Modification to the I-9 bridge approach has been a bone of contention in the Putnam County Courthouse. A letter dated Feb, 26, 2008, and submitted to Troy Recker, Putnam County Engineer office’s construction manager for the roads and bridges, by Daniel G. Bucher, President of Kohli & Kaliher Associates, Inc., stated, “When the Road I-9 Bridge over the Blanchard River was designed, there was a great deal of thought and analysis given to the effect of the proposed approach roadway and bridge on the high water elevations of the Blanchard River, both upstream and downstream of the subject bridge.”

“One of the things [the USACE] did say was the information that was available to the engineers at the time the I-9 bridge approach was updated was the best and latest information that was available and they did everything correctly. Nobody made a mistake with that,” said Meyer. “The information that is available has been now over 15 years. Engineering changes. They’ve found the approach is causing water to back up.”

Meyer further reported that all of the USACE tentative plans included altering the I-9 approach. Meyer, Ottawa Village Council President Tim Macke and Phillips confirmed that, although they have not seen the final format of the USACE flood mitigation study, they have seen preliminary data.