Portage River project plods on PDF Print E-mail
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor   
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 11:04
Portage River seen from Bates Road bridge (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
No one needs to remind Wood County Engineer Ray Huber that the Portage River cleanout project is running as slow as flood water receding from the clogged river.
He already knows.
More than five years ago, landowners along the southern and eastern branches of the Portage River petitioned to have it cleaned out. They had grown weary of logjams causing flooding in their fields.
They are still waiting.
But Huber again defended the cautious speed of the project when he met with officials from Wood, Hancock, Seneca counties and Fostoria on Monday.
Not only is the size of the project uncommonly large, covering 46 miles of waterway spanning three counties - but it also is very complex, involving assessments of more than 9,700 parcels in 112 square miles of watershed. The estimated cost of the project was put at nearly $2.8 million.
"This is a three-county joint effort," Huber said.
Originally, Huber had predicted the plans for the cleanup would be ready by 2013.
"Here we are at 2013, and the plan and specifications are not done," he said to those gathered.
The revised projection is early 2014 for the final public hearing on the plans.
But at least progress is being made, Huber added.
"We're ready to sit down and try to pull the ends together," he said.
The assessments of landowners in Wood County are very close to being determined, according to Huber. Both Hancock and Seneca county engineers were asked to submit their assessments to Huber.
As of three years ago, when county engineer staff members walked the river routes, there were approximately 243 log jams, 4,300 dead, fallen or leaning trees, and 190 sandbars. The scope of the project is limited to removing blockages such as trees or other debris, but not dredging the sandbars.
It is believed there are now probably many more downed or leaning trees due to ash borer beetles.
In an effort to make some progress on the project, the Wood County Commissioners agreed last year to enter a contract with the Wood Soil and Water Conservation District to pay that agency $73,000 to develop a plan for the river cleanout.
Though the Soil and Water Conservation District will do the preliminary planning for the cleanout, the county engineer would still be in control of the project.
On Monday, Huber shared with the soil and water conservation district updated aerial maps of the river, in hopes those can be used in devising a cleanup plan. Once the plans are completed, the project can go out for bids.

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