Richland County officials present subdistrict request to MWCD

May 16, 2014

Leaders of local communities near the Clear Fork of the Mohican River in Richland County are hopeful their desire to prevent and reduce flooding will be addressed soon with the creation of a subdistrict to the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD).

A petition requesting the creation of the Clear Fork Subdistrict of the MWCD will be presented to the 18-judge Conservancy Court of the conservancy district during its annual session scheduled June 7 in New Philadelphia. If the petition is approved, the MWCD will assist the newly created subdistrict with development of a plan to address the flooding that has occurred along the Clear Fork more frequently in recent years.

“We believe that by reaching out to the MWCD through the subdistrict process included in conservancy district law, we will be able to produce results for our communities,” said Mayor Darrell Banks of the Village of Bellville, where Village Council approved an ordinance earlier this year and has submitted a petition to the MWCD requesting the creation of the Clear Fork Subdistrict.

A copy of the petition, along with resolutions of support from many other local governments, including Richland County commissioners, the City of Ontario, the villages of Butler and Lexington, as well as several townships and the Richland County Soil and Water Conservation District, were presented to members of the MWCD Board of Directors during a meeting today (Friday, May 16) at Charles Mill Lake Park near Mansfield. Board members authorized the MWCD staff to present the petition and support documents to the Conservancy Court for its review and consideration. According to conservancy district law, the Conservancy Court holds the authority to approve or reject requests for subdistricts.

If approved, the process to develop and implement any plan should take several years, according to MWCD officials.

The Clear Fork request comes three years after officials in the City of Shelby in Richland County were successful in having their request granted by the Court for reactivation of the former Black Fork Subdistrict of the MWCD to address flooding woes along the Black Fork of the Mohican River, which is located north of the Clear Fork.

If the Clear Fork Subdistrict is approved, the MWCD, with assistance from community leaders in the Clear Fork area communities, will begin the process to develop the required plan that will detail the causes of flooding in the Clear Fork watershed, the potential projects to reduce the flooding and the benefits that will be developed for property owners and residents through activation of the plan.

The entire watershed of the Clear Fork is located primarily in southern Richland County, with smaller portions in southern Ashland, northern Knox and northeastern Morrow counties. The requested Clear Fork Subdistrict boundary is limited to Richland County only, as stressed by Banks and other officials who attended the meeting to support the petition.

“As a commissioner, we see the millions of dollars of damage that occur from flooding and we share the frustrations of the communities that are dealing with this,” said Richland County Commissioner Tim Wert. “We also recognize that the footprint of the problem is larger than what we as a county can deal with exclusively, and we look forward to working with the MWCD to assist in reviewing and identifying solutions in these areas.”

In July 2013, State Rep. Mark J. Romanchuk, R-Ontario, hosted a meeting to discuss flooding issues in the Richland County region that included officials from around the county, as well as the MWCD and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). In the weeks after the meeting, leaders of the Clear Fork area communities contacted MWCD and held several follow-up meetings to determine the viability of a subdistrict request.

“We have taken a great deal of time to review and consider the subdistrict approach, and we have talked to the folks associated with the Black Fork Subdistrict,” Banks said. “A study of problems already is under way in the Black Fork, and we believe we will see action like this if the Clear Fork Subdistrict is approved.”

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 other active subdistrict operating within it. The Chippewa Subdistrict is located in portions of northern Wayne and southern Medina counties. Formed in the 1960s, the Chippewa Subdistrict later 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.

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 16 reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving an estimated $10.7 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government, as well as providing popular recreational opportunities that bolster the region’s economy. A significant portion of 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 follow the MWCD on Facebook and Twitter.

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