MILLERSPORT – Residents of Walnut Township and area officials gathered on Wednesday evening to discuss concerns and potential solutions to ongoing flooding issues.

According to Walnut Township Trustee Terry Horn, the majority of flooding problems originate from areas such as Hollywood By The Lake, Lakeside, North Bank, Sellers Drive and the northern part of the West Bank. Residents along Ohio 360 have also been affected by flooding and poor drainage in recent years.

“It’s inadequate infrastructure, it’s a low-lying area and it’s sensitive to significant rainfall events,” Horn said. “It’s way beyond centennial events. It’s more common than centennial events.”

Residents say filling in dirt, ODOT adding to flooding, drainage issues

One of the biggest concerns raised by residents of the area was the problems with the dirt of the landfill.

According to those in attendance Wednesday evening, some residents of the flood-prone areas used fill soil as a means of repairing the flooding on their own properties.

However, residents neighboring these properties were concerned about this practice, as the backfill would have diverted the path of the water, leading it into their own backyards and alleys.

Other residents criticized the Ohio Department of Transportation, which had representatives present at the meeting.

In their complaints, owners claimed that ODOT-related projects along the Ohio 360 contributed to flooding, dating back to 2002. Residents say continued repaves have raised the road surface inch by inch, causing average rainfall to create flooding.

ODOT District 5 Deputy Director Jason Sturgeon said a culvert placed along the Ohio 360 could potentially help alleviate these flooding issues.

Problems along the South Fork of the Licking River

Fairfield County soil and water landscape architect Jonathan Ferbrache said the south branch of the Licking River has been experiencing flooding problems for more than two decades.

Ferbache said blockages such as traffic jams and debris fields contributed to the flooding problems.

“There were efforts that almost started to fix these issues and then they fell apart,” Ferbrache said. “This collection of organic debris has grown steadily for over 20 years. The river rerouted around what was causing the traffic jams. They created ox arches cutting sections of the river and , ultimately, creating a flow dynamic that may not meet the community’s needs for rapid delivery of water after or during a flood.

Ferbrache said resolving these issues along the South Fork will help address other issues in Licking County.

“If the river is not operating at its maximum capacity then any additional projects upstream to Buckeye Lake and back to State Route 37 are unable to meet their targets and the discharge rates that we would like them to have,” said declared Ferbrache.

As a solution, “No Name Creek” was identified by area officials as a way to address some of the flooding issues around the South Fork, including improved drainage along the Ohio 360 and adjacent communities.

However, Ferbrache noted that the governments of Fairfield and Licking County would have to work together if the project was presented as a joint petition ditch.

“The two commissions should work together, with one county taking the lead,” Ferbrache said. “But this is essential to provide an outlet for at least half of the Ohio 360 area between Sellers Point and No Name Creek, as there are no other positive outlets in that immediate area.”

Potential solutions to flooding problems

Officials presented several potential solutions to the flooding problems around the Buckeye Lake area in Walnut Township at Wednesday’s meeting.

Officials in Fairfield County and Walnut Township are trusting a FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant that would help cover costs associated with addressing flooding issues faced by area residents.

“It will be a process,” Horn said. “There are going to be many government entities applying for the grant… With I-70 being part of this grant resolution and with all the flooding on I-70, I think this will bode well for the whole of the subsidy because it is a high-level need that affects interstate commerce. We hope this earns us major points in the application. “

A BRIC grant application is expected to be submitted by the Buckeye Lake Region Corporation on behalf of Fairfield and Perry counties later this fall. Officials said they should know the outcome of that request by the first quarter of 2022.

Local landowners could potentially create a petition ditch to help divert water to their area, similar to the A-side ditch or West Bank pump projects in the past. However, such a solution would have to be homeowner funded, as Fairfield County Engineer Jeremiah Upp noted that his office cannot legally provide financial assistance for such a project.

Other funding options presented by Upp included a stormwater drainage district, or funding from the Ohio Public Works Commission, which would require about 26% local matching.

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