With mounting opinions on both sides of the issue and a recommendation from the county engineer, Seneca County Board of Commissioners chose to wait until December to decide on a petition ditch project for Wolf Creek.
Commissioners met Tuesday morning for a public ditch hearing for the west branch of Wolf Creek, which affects 3,000 landowners on 6,000 parcels of land from the Seneca/Hancock county line in Alvada to the Seneca/Sandusky county line in Bettsville. More than 125 people were in attendance to voice concerns in favor or against the petition.
The project as petitioned requests the removal of log jams, sand/sediment bars, dead and hanging trees and mill dams affecting the flow of the main channel and establishes an access point for maintenance. There would be no change to the makeup of the creek, although it would be placed on permanent maintenance according to Ohio Revised Code.
In a preliminary engineering report, County Engineer Mark Zimmerman recommended the project, as it provided for the public welfare, is cost affective and necessary. Zimmerman said estimates for the project are $225,000, about $5 per acre based on preliminary study. Actual costs cannot be determined until trees have shed their leaves and crops have been harvested, he said, but landowners would be charged based on benefit and amount of land, according to a formula.
Zimmerman added the improvements should not cause flooding to increase for any property owners, and the hope is for flood levels to decrease in most areas.
Commissioners did not act on Zimmerman's recommendation, but chose to adjourn the hearing to collect more information and testimony, and are to reconvene at 10 a.m. Dec. 3 at the Public Safety Building at the Seneca County Fairgrounds.
The purpose of Tuesday's meeting was primarily to hear statements from effected landowners. Correspondence read into record during the meeting was universally negative, with about a dozen letters from residents saying they opposed the project, notably the continuing maintenance portion.
For those attending the meeting, statements were split. While some residents said the proposed cost are manageable and would increase if not done soon, others said they are on fixed income and are not in support of maintenance costs.
Most in attendance said they saw the need for the project, but were opposed to maintenance.
Some Fostoria residents questioned whether they would be charged in addition to storm water fees owed to the city.
Zimmerman said coordination would need to occur with city officials and township trustees to keep from having overlapping costs.
In addition, Ben Nutter, president of the county commissioners, said when engineering is done for the project, more information is to be gathered to ensure all residents involved in the project are within the Wolf Creek watershed.
The petition for the project was filed May 1, but those in attendance said the drainage problems at Wolf Creek have been ongoing, with projects to remediate issues dating back to the 1960s and '70s.