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Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

ODNR funding pays for erosion-control project

Beaver Creek

By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - An estimated $119,000 erosion-control project will get underway soon along Beaver Creek, thanks to funding from Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
In a lawsuit settled a year ago, ODNR agreed to pay its share of future maintenance along the creek, following a 27-year exemption. ODNR governs the 13,500-acre Grand Lake, which flows across the spillway into Beaver Creek.
The state agency will pick up the majority of the project tab; the remaining cost will be paid by annual assessments collected from property owners along the creek.
Mercer County Commissioners on Thursday opened bids from contractors interested in performing the work. The lowest bid was $89,397 from Tumbusch Construction of St. Henry; the highest bid was $122,884 from J&M Excavating of Cloverdale. A contract is expected to be awarded after review by the engineer's office.
Erosion work was last completed along Beaver Creek more than 12 years ago and only involved the north ditch. This year's project will target the south ditch from the Celina-Coldwater bike path to Hardin Creek near Philothea Road.
"We did it in 2000 as an experiment," said Vern Eichler of the county engineer's office. "It worked out real good ... the rocks stayed in place."
The work involves digging out a notch in the bottom of the ditch and filling it in with approximately 8 feet of rocks, depending on the area, he said. Engineers hope to continue erosion work annually, he added.
Eichler admitted the work wouldn't be possible without funding from the state.
"Without ODNR, we wouldn't be doing this project," he said.
In 1984, extensive work was performed on Beaver Creek's 36,800-acre watershed to increase water flow and prevent erosion to nearby land. The cost of the project was $701,372; landowners along the waterway were assessed a fee of 2 percent of the project cost and began paying yearly fees for maintenance such as weed spraying and erosion control.
During that time, a special board of commissioners exempted ODNR from paying maintenance assessments in exchange for a one-time, up-front payment of $462,906 or 66 percent of the project cost.
In March 2009, Wiechart reviewed the agreement with ODNR. He discovered the special board had no power to grant such a deal and further noted how the state-owned and operated spillway continues to impact the Beaver Creek.
Wiechart noted that without ODNR's financial support the burden to maintain the Beaver Creek ditch falls solely to landowners in the watershed. Commissioners agreed to void the 1984 agreement and include ODNR on the list of those being assessed for maintenance.
A public hearing on the matter was held in March 2009, but no one from ODNR attended, so commissioners penned a resolution requiring the state to pay an annual assessment fee. Ten days later, ODNR appealed the commissioners' order in court.
In July 2011, the state agency changed its mind and agreed in court to pay its share. Terms of the agreement required ODNR to pay past maintenance assessment costs totaling $32,850 and its portion of future expenses. It also added ODNR to the list of property owners along the creek who annually are billed according to the benefit they receive from ditch maintenance.

The story incorrectly stated the project extends to Hardin Creek near Philothea Road from near the entrance of the Celina-Coldwater bike path in Celina. The project will span west to Hardin Creek, between Meyer and Fleetfoot roads.
The error was made in reporting.
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