Findlay Floods is an interactive documentary project that contextualizes the history of flooding and flood mitigation efforts in Hancock County and the city of Findlay. Centered on visual storytelling, it is comprised of a timeline that provides history, and video interviews that put key stakeholders in conversation with one another.
All of these video interviews were conducted the first week of March, just after Stantec went public with its findings. The captions in the videos and the corresponding text on this page provide current updates and links to public documents. As of Wednesday, April 19, the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District board has voted to proceed with plans to improve the Blanchard river channel as it flows through Findlay. Work may begin this summer. On May 5, the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District Court will have its annual meeting and review Stantec’s recommendations for flood mitigation.
The following videos break down the last few years of flood mitigation efforts, starting with an explanation of involvement with the Army Corps of Engineers, moving to a recap of the transition from Army Corps to Stantec, and finally a discussion of Stantec’s proposals and what they mean for city and county residents alike.
Who are the stakeholders in flood mitigation in the city of Findlay? Hancock County? Northwest Ohio? In this first video, project manager Steve Wilson explains his role as well as the roles of other stakeholders as they relate to one another. This context is important to understand how ties were cut with the Army Corps of Engineers, how Stantec was brought on, and what the future holds for Findlay and its surrounding communities as they continue to fight the all-too-familiar battles against the Blanchard River. Although the city and county both have influence and representation in the flood mitigation process, the real decision-making power lies with the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, which oversees 15 counties. Hancock County still manages the flood fund, though, and will seek renewal of the 1/2 percent sales tax in 2018 when it expires. This sales tax contributes about $7 million annually to the county. Half of the revenue goes toward the flood fund, the other half goes toward county operations.
The 2007 flood was the worst flood in Findlay history since the flood of 1913. Since Findlay has been flooding for more than 100 years, what has taken so long for a flood mitigation plan to be put into action? In this video, Gary Wilson (Hancock County Farm Bureau) and John LaRiche (LaRiche Chevrolet Cadillac) share their experiences during the 2007 flood – representing the rural and urban experiences of this traumatic flood.
This flood prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to move up its timetable for a two-year flood mitigation study of the Blanchard River. After years of debates over cost-to-benefit ratios, the Army Corps suggested a 9.4 mile diversion channel that would have cut through 38 properties, mostly in rural land. The cost-to-benefit ratio for the Army Corps’ plan was less than 1:1 and the chances of getting federal funding were slim-to-none. Last July, Hancock County and the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District cut ties with the Army Corps and hired Stantec to perform a gap analysis of the Corps’ research as well as their own. Traction has been made over the last two months since Stantec’s plans have been made public, and the river enhancement portion of the plan could be put into motion as early as this summer.
What are Stantec’s proposals? How much will they cost and how will they be paid for? There is a lot of community support – both rural and urban – for the river enhancement component of Stantec’s proposals. The dry storage basin proposals are not as favorable among residents as homeowners and property owners originally living out of the floodplain would now have to sacrifice their lands, should these proposals be implemented. The Maumee Watershed Conservancy District has not yet acted on these proposals, but Steve Wilson, project manager, said that they will be reviewed by the Conservancy Court.
Improving the Blanchard River as it currently flows through Findlay would cost about $20 million (and would drop the river by 1 foot on Main Street in the event of a 100-year flood). Stantec’s entire recommended plan would cost about $160 million – which is twice the price of the Corps’ Eagle Creek diversion channel proposal. Even though Stantec does not recommend the diversion channel, a diversion channel option is not totally off the table.
The Maumee Watershed Conservancy District will be holding three public meetings to review and discuss the full Blanchard River plan.
Tuesday, April 25 at 6 p.m. at Riverdale High School
Wednesday, April 26 at 6 p.m. at the Hancock County Engineer’s Office maintenance garage
The third meeting is TBA
Sarah Stubbs, creator of Findlay Floods