Buffalo, NY -- The Blanchard River Watershed Study remains the #1 priority project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District, because we care about our fellow citizens who have been adversely affected by severe flooding with increasing frequency over the past decade. I reaffirm my commitment to lead the Buffalo District towards accomplishing this study with both a sense of urgency and sound engineering.
I am grateful to Congressman Latta for the invitation to see some of the impacted areas first hand, and for the opportunity to speak with community members during a recent visit to the Blanchard River watershed.
Since the visit, I’ve reflected on the current situation and share the following key thoughts:
1. Communication - USACE can and must do a better job of engaging with and informing the community regarding the study’s progress.
2. USACE Civil Works projects are complicated endeavors. It is important to consider the needs and preferences of all involved – however these projects often require the sacrifices among some to greatly benefit many.
3. Everything is connected – this is not just a Findlay problem or a rural problem, or even a watershed problem; this work relates to the Western Lake Erie Basin, the Great Lakes Navigation System, and therefore the vitality of the Nation.
4. Completing the study when we all desire requires many activities to go absolutely right, requires some innovation in our processes, and requires cooperation at all levels.
5. Completion of the study does not automatically result in a project. For construction to occur, the federal government would either have to authorize and fund this project, or the local government would have to decide to construct with their own resources.
Where are we with the study?
As the community knows all too well, this study has taken an unrelenting effort to get to this point. On the Federal side, the authorities, policies, and funding amounts under which we have conducted the study have varied through the years. What is important to know now, is that funding secured through the efforts of local, state, and federal leaders in April set the project study on a path for planned completion in March 2016.
In the coming weeks, USACE Buffalo and the project’s local sponsor are set to brief the study’s progress to leaders of the USACE Headquarters. This process is known as the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) Milestone.
The significance of this milestone is that all of the work that has been conducted in the past has resulted in a basic plan that will offer flood risk reduction, where the benefits are greater than the costs of the project.
This basic plan calls for three general measures: a diversion channel that collects water from Eagle Creek and moves it back into the Blanchard River downstream from Findlay; a levee that runs south from the reservoir to Highway 15 that prevents water from jumping the banks of the Blanchard River and flowing overland towards Lye Creek; and finally, non-structural measures that may include raising structures or buying out landowners in high risk areas.
What’s the next step for the study?
The basic plan, described in the TSP, is not the final plan. The TSP Milestone will indicate if we have the backing of the USACE, Headquarters to further develop and optimize the plan, or if we need to re-work the plan.
Further development of the project plan will result in a “Draft Project Report” that USACE issues to the public, our headquarters, state agencies, and an independent external peer organization for review and comment.
Optimizing the plan means making adjustments to achieve the most ideal benefit to cost ratio possible.
It is important to note that re-working the project plan will result in schedule delays and increased costs. The USACE, Buffalo District is doing everything we can to minimize the possibility of this happening.
After the TSP Milestone, I plan to visit Findlay and Hancock County with our team to explain the basic plan, the outcome of the TSP Milestone, and the study’s next steps.
The USACE, Buffalo District will continue to keep this project priority #1. We have taken steps to ask other districts for help when we needed more manpower to push this study forward. Mr. Raziul Mollah, a Hydraulic Engineer from the USACE, Pittsburgh District contributed to the critical hydraulic modeling that occurred since April and shared these thoughts when I met with him recently:
“I have really enjoyed working on this project with great passion to make our organization proud as well as benefit the affected residents of the Blanchard River watershed. I believe eventually we will be able to develop a great plan for the people affected and benefit their livelihood for years to come. I am proud to be a member of a great team!”
This study is not easy, nor simple, nor without controversy. Notwithstanding, Buffalo District cares about our fellow Americans in the Blanchard River watershed, and we are committed to delivering the finest public service possible.
/s/Karl D. Jansen, P.E.
Lieutenant Colonel, Corps of Engineers