|File photo. Farmer Jack
Stearns chats with neighbor Bill Nye near a flooded section of Nye Road adjacent to South Branch Portage
River in rural Bloomdale. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Cleaning the Portage River has been planned since 2007, but the project has made little progress,
particularly in the last year.
Wood County commissioners hope the project will be spurred into action by a new set of plans, discussed
Tuesday by Wood County Engineer Ray Huber and Jim Carter, administrator and engineering technician of
the Wood County Soil and Water Conservation District.
While commissioners Jim Carter and Doris Herringshaw were more reserved in pushing for progress,
commissioner Joel Kuhlman said it was "hard to hold back" his frustration with a lack of
progress, especially in 2013.
"It just seems totally unacceptable to me," Kuhlman said as progress was explained by Carter
and Huber. "I do not understand why I have not gotten a definitive answer on anything."
Residents petitioned in 2007 to have logjams and trees removed from a 46-mile stretch of the south and
east branches of the river.
The blockage was studied and mapped, and Wood County contracted with WCSWCD to perform the design work in
September 2012 at a cost of $73,000 and estimated it would be finished in six months.
Carter of WCSWCD said he spent much of 2013 "getting things assembled in a format that people can
understand and guide themselves by" – developing a more detailed plan for a contractor to approach
the project, as the company may not be familiar with the land in the area. And since the obstacles are a
"moving target" and based on 2007 data, Carter said he will likely add 30 percent to make sure
a bid covers the correct about of items to be removed.
As far as a plan goes, there’s time involved in assembling that, and it’s the first one I’ve ever
done," Carter said.
When asked on several occasions for a timeline on when the project could be completed, Carter said
efforts to clean a 60-mile section of the Auglaize River which he was not involved with took less than a
year once work began.
"I think I see some semblance of order here now, as far as here’s the direction we have to go, which
I didn’t have before," said commissioner Jim Carter.
Huber and Carter of WCSWCD plan to meet within the next several weeks to review the plan, and
commissioners asked to meet again at 9:30 a.m. April 1 for another update. "We’re probably, I’m
going to take a wild stab and say at least a year out yet, to try to get it all pulled together in a
manageable form such that we can present it to the commissioners," Huber said when asked for an
outlook on when the final plan could be approved by commissioners and put into action.
"We have something tangible to work with now, which we didn’t have before. And that’s a good thing.
"Now that we’ve got our feet wet and we know what we’re doing, we can move forward at a quicker
pace," Huber said, noting that the next step of assembling the three-county list of landowners who
will be assessed the project costs.
That task is a daunting one, as it involves more than 9,700 parcels, mostly in Wood County and Hancock
County, but also some in Fostoria, parts of which lie in Seneca County. Huber said Wood County is about
two-thirds complete with the others yet to come, but "that’s a moving target also," as some
parcels have been split or changed owners.
"I think the important thing is we keep moving forward," Herringshaw said.