MWCD Board approves reactivation of Black Fork Subdistrict

June 2, 2011

Mayor Marilyn S. John says the decision to reactivate the Black Fork Subdistrict of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) will be “historic” for the city and residents of Shelby in Richland County to battle the costly and emotional effects of frequent flooding from the Black Fork of the Mohican River.

 

Prior to a unanimous vote of the MWCD Board of Directors recently, John told Board members that the desire to see a subdistrict someday develop and implement a plan to control flooding most recently has represented the effort of the Flood Plain Management Commission in the city, but really is the culmination of years of frustration caused by significant floods.

 

“We have generations of people who have worked on this for our community,” she said. “We feel like this is our opportunity. This is historic for our community.”

 

The process to develop and begin implementation of a plan should take at least two years, according to MWCD officials. However, during recent meetings with officials and residents from Shelby and Richland County, it is obvious that the “genuine drive exists to help residents, business owners and others affected by the flooding from the Black Fork,” said John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary.

 

“We have had numerous meetings with Mayor John and other leaders and interested residents in the community and have been impressed with the detail and work that they have put into studying all available options and opportunities,” Hoopingarner said. “The reactivation of the Black Fork Subdistrict allows the community to further explore what can be identified and accomplished in that watershed to reduce flooding and foster an environment where the Black Fork will be an asset.”

 

The MWCD, with assistance from the Flood Plain Management Commission in Shelby, will begin the legal process to reactivate the subdistrict and develop the required plan that will detail the causes of flooding in the Black Fork watershed, the potential projects to reduce the flooding and the benefits that will be developed for property owners and residents through the activation of the plan.

 

The Black Fork Subdistrict originally was organized in 1959 to develop water resources for the region, but because of a lack of activity, the MWCD deactivated it several years later.

 

The watershed of the Black Fork of the Mohican River primarily covers portions of Ashland and Richland counties, but also includes small portions of Crawford and Holmes counties.

 

The Black Fork is controlled by Charles Mill Dam and Reservoir located just off I-71 and Rt. 30 near Mansfield in Ashland and Richland counties. However, the city of Shelby is located northwest, or above, the dam. Water also flows slowly from Shelby through the Black Fork to Charles Mill Dam because of a small drop in elevation, which can add to potential flooding problems in the Shelby area.

 

The Flood Plain Management Commission of Shelby was authorized by the city in June 2009 and by July 2010, its recommendation to reactivate the Black Fork Subdistrict was approved by Shelby City Council.

 

The Ohio law dealing with conservancy districts permits separate subdistricts to function with the conservancy district serving as the business agent for the subdistrict. The MWCD has one active subdistrict operating within it, the Chippewa Subdistrict in portions of northern Wayne and southern Medina counties. That subdistrict, formed in the 1960s, enacted a plan that led to the construction of eight small dams and 33 miles of channel improvements along the Chippewa Creek to reduce the effects of flooding in that watershed.

 

Thomas Depler, a Shelby resident and a former member of the MWCD Board of Directors, has been a member of the Flood Plain Management Commission and has encouraged the need for the reactivation of the Black Fork Subdistrict for many years. He told members of the MWCD Board of Directors that the subdistrict will benefit the residents of the Black Fork watershed.

 

“The true headwaters of the Muskingum River and the Muskingum River Watershed are right there in Shelby,” Depler said. “The MWCD affords the opportunity to be multi-jurisdictional and bring the whole project together.

 

The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving more than $8 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government. The reservoirs are managed by the MWCD and the dams are managed for flood-risk management by the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

 

For more information about the MWCD, visit www.mwcd.org and on Facebook.

 

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