Rivers

More than 103 years ago, Richland County — and countless communities across 20 states — experienced a flood of historic proportions.

When the rain fell, it didn’t stop until our streets were inundated and our minds were stumped.

How could we protect our businesses, homes, bridges and land from inevitable catastrophic deluges?

The Great Flood of 1913 hurled the nation into a conversation that continues today through watershed conservancy districts and subdistricts, emergency management agencies, policies, policy amendments, campaign rhetoric, ordinances, etc. 

Since the conversation is more than a century old, many have stopped listening. The issues, now spearheaded by politicians and environmental lobbyists, get lost in translation.

This study aims to clear the muddy waters. It starts at the ground level with two local landowners frustrated by the bureaucracies of a system seemingly too large to navigate. It then seeks to understand their questions through both current and historical lenses, until finally it explores potential solutions.

Chapter 1: ‘It keeps cutting away’

Richard Masters

Richard Masters points to a problem area in his backyard in Lucas where rivers are cutting into his farmland.

As lakes, ponds and bridges in the Midwest freeze, streams and rivers flow gracefully, continually. To the rest of us, the ever-flowing rivers keep hopes of spring and summer alive through the winter doldrums. But for farmers like Richard Masters, they are a reminder of a seemingly ever-growing problem.

Not long ago, when Masters noticed the river in his backyard cutting away at his farmland, he was concerned. Trees, rocks and debris were regularly falling into the Black Fork and Rocky Fork of the Mohican River that converge on his backyard in Lucas off Ohio 39.

When the skies open up to let loose a flash of rain, the waters spill into his farmland, flooding his crops — his livelihood. So, he made a call to the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District.

“You used to be able to take a canoe all the way up (to) the dam. Not anymore,” 80-year-old Masters reminisced.

He would know. He’s lived here since 1965.

As of April 2016, more than a year after his initial call, Masters has yet to receive favorable answers from the county level. He said officials visited his farm only to examine the problem and tell him, “I’ll get back to you.”  

“I just want someone to care. Those rivers haven’t been dredged since the late ‘50s. And every year, it just cuts and cuts and cuts into my fields,” Masters said. “My kids and grandkids, that’s what worries me.”

Masters plans on passing on his 92-acre plot to his children. But he worries about the “uncontrollable” rivers that are gradually cutting away the farmable land.

Masters decided to take the matter into his own farm-worn hands. He began removing debris from the rivers. He said he pulled out trees, rocks and more trees. Along with a backhoe he borrowed, he recruited a crew of four men, each equipped with trucks and chainsaws.

“It keeps cutting away, and then everything falls right into the river,” he said.

It had never crossed Masters’ mind that he might be breaking state and federal law when he attempted to dredge the rivers flowing through his backyard. In Masters’ mind, they are his rivers, and they pose a real threat to his land.

According to Heather Lauer, an Ohio EPA spokesperson, he toed the line. 

“Farmers are allowed to remove log jams,” Lauer said. “Now … there are some caveats to that.”

She said farmers who intend on dredging portions of their rivers and streams should first contact the Ohio EPA or the Army Corps of Engineers. One of these entities will help farmers determine if a permit is needed for the dredging. 

Lauer said, when dredging, new channels cannot be created. Also, the debris removed needs to be relocated in an area that is not considered a wetland and cannot be replaced in another section of another stream or river. 

“We want to ensure that there is as little sediment flowing downstream as possible,” Lauer said. “The idea is that anytime you’re dredging or digging in a stream, it’s going to affect the water quality. So you need to be able to explain why it’s necessary and know what you need to do to ensure that you’re not going to cause environmental harm.”

If you are not a farmer, however, dredging a river in any way in Ohio is illegal — the law requires a permit for that. 

Sounds complicated right? We thought so too, so we did some more digging and found a Mansfield man who owns farmland and a business — both of which happen to be situated where state-owned rivers flow.

Chapter 2: Dan Tucker's suggestion

Dan Tucker

Dan Tucker scans his portion of a Fork river atop the embankment he built out of construction riffraff.

Dan Tucker is a farm investor and he owns Tucker Brothers Auto Wrecking in Mansfield. One of his eight Richland County farms harbors waters of the Clear Fork and Black Fork of the Mohican River, but only his junkyard property on Hickory Lane is endangered by river erosion.

He said the junkyard is met with a half-mile of the river’s banks, which cut away at his property much like the rivers in Richard Masters’ backyard — until he obtained a permit to build up his own embankment.

“I just dumped some construction riffraff (riprap) onto the bank to build it up. The water comes clear up to here when it (the river) floods,” Tucker said as he pointed to the riprap embankment on his junkyard property.

“There was one year that a school bus fell into the river right here,” Tucker explained as he pointed downstream. “It was getting bad.”

Both Tucker and Masters suspect money is a central issue surrounding the reason rivers are not maintained. They both have the same suggestion to fix the problem: use money from their property tax spikes.

They are talking about the recent controversial Current Agricultural Use Valuation property tax formula. Statewide, farmers are experiencing up to 70 percent increases in their property taxes.

The CAUV program was first enacted in Ohio in 1974 and was a response to tanking real estate values across the state. Farmers’ land is now taxed based on its agricultural value using the CAUV formula, not its real estate value.

But since 2010, the tides have turned. Agricultural prices have decreased, making farms like Masters’ experience steep increases in tax bills at year’s end. Masters and Tucker are concerned about where their hard-earned crop money is ending up — they suspect one thing: the money isn’t being used to dredge the rivers meandering through their properties.

Both are right, but the CAUV has nothing to do with a landowner’s water, according to Richland Soil and Water Conservation District Administrator John Hildreth.

Hildreth is familiar with these issues, but unfortunately for Masters and Tucker, he is limited in the amount of help he can offer.

“What people need to realize is that we (private landowners) don't own the water, the state of Ohio does," Hildreth said. "They (private landowners) do not have the right to alter and create disturbances that affect water quality.”

Hildreth referred to the Clean Water Act of 1972, which serves as the country’s primary federal law governing water pollution. The laws were meant to prevent pollution sources in rivers and streams that flow into larger bodies of water.

“Before the Clean Water Act, landowners could go in and do whatever they wanted without any consequences,” Hildreth said.

Masters experienced the days where landowners like himself were permitted to dredge his section of the river without legal consequence. Now, however, the law mandates Masters and other landowners along rivers and streams jump through bureaucratic hoops.

“He needs to go to the Ohio EPA and request, or file for a notice of intent," Hildreth said. "His request will be reviewed and comments will go back and forth between the EPA and him.”

Hildreth admitted the state laws create a gray area for landowners.

If Masters owns 92 acres of land, and the state owns the river running through that land, what does Masters do when the river cut into his land — land that might someday become un-farmable?

“Yes, it’s complicated. It’s due process. And the process starts by talking to the Ohio EPA,” Hildreth said. “Vent to them what he feels is wrong. He also has the burden of coming up with solutions. And that might require an engineer to come in that’s qualified in hydraulics … Right out of his pocket.”

A silent pause.

“I know that’s probably not something these guys want to hear,” Hildreth said, sighing.

Especially after weathering as much as 185 percent increases for their CAUV taxes. Paying for an engineer to figure out how to fix their river problem is not something landowners like Masters and Tucker would find prudent.

As a farmland investor, Tucker is familiar with the CAUV tax calculations — he is paying upwards of $50,000 per year in taxes — a 150-percent increase from $22,000 just a few years back. The largest spike he saw was on his 160-acre farm. In 2013 he owed $3,500. In 2014 he owed $10,000, an increase of 185 percent.

Of his eight farms, only one encounters a river, the Black Fork, and Tucker said he is not concerned with its erosion. But he empathizes with farmers like Masters, who also experienced CAUV spikes.

When asked how much his CAUV taxes have increased in the last few years, Masters said he did not remember.

“They’ve just doubled,” he insisted.

“There’s much more the state’s CAUV could do to help out farmers who have problems with their rivers,” Tucker suggested.

Turns out Tucker is right — in theory. But realistically that will never happen, according to state officials. And the solution is part of a larger, ongoing issue.

Chapter 3: Political waves deepen local flooding

Could CAUV monies be allocated to help maintain local rivers? Local and state politicians say, in theory, it’s possible, but they find it unlikely.

“No, probably not,” State Rep. Mark Romanchuk (R) said.

Congressman Bob Gibbs (R) agrees.

“You’d have to change state law. Or you’d have to convince the schools to say, ‘OK, you can use some of my money; I don’t think that will happen,” Gibbs said with a chuckle.

According to Romanchuk, CAUV tax money, much like property tax money, is divided among schools in the county and various tax levies like the health and mental health levies.

So CAUV money will likely never be used to maintain rivers, streams and creeks. But Gibbs said people like Lucas farmer Richard Masters and Madison business owner Dan Tucker are asking the right questions. Their questions are part of a much larger, national conversation and are creating a rift between politicians on both sides of the aisle.

“We’re fighting this on a federal level. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers put out a rule that expands the federal jurisdiction of water. So now, waters of the U.S. requires permits to do anything, basically. Even puddles,” Gibbs chided.

He was referring to the Clean Water Rule. It is an attempt to “ensure that waters protected under the (1972) Clean Water Act are more precisely defined, more predictable, easier for businesses and industry to understand and consistent with the law and the latest science,” said an EPA spokesperson.

The Clean Water Rule does not regulate puddles, he noted.

“In fact, puddles are explicitly excluded from coverage under the Clean Water Act,” he wrote in an email, citing Rule Text § 230.3(s)(2)(iv)(G) where it states, “The following are not ‘waters of the United States’ … puddles.”

The rule, which passed Aug. 28, 2015, is currently under judicial scrutiny due to litigation initiated by mostly Republican politicians and special interest groups who argue the rule expands federal jurisdiction of state waters.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) is among the groups standing against the federal rule.

“This rule clearly violates both the language and the spirit of the Clean Water Act, which recognizes the rights of states to serve as trustees of their natural resources,” DeWine said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Mansfield who is representing Ohio, supports the rule and noted its aim is to clarify the issue.

“It is my hope that this rule will end more than a decade of confusion as to when a permit is needed,” Brown said. “The Clean Water Rule clarifies current law to give businesses, farmers and state and local governments guidance that will better protect Ohioans’ drinking water and Lake Erie without burdening local farming activity.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declined to comment on their stance as it relates to the Clean Water Rule for this story because “the rule is in litigation.”

To summarize, the issue is not limited to the maintenance of rivers and streams on individual pieces of land like Masters’ and Tucker’s. The issue’s scope is much broader, one that transcends state lines and now occupies federal courts.

The bigger picture is framed by political implications and it now includes the manipulation of water flowing through rivers and streams to prevent pollution and flooding — the latter of which is an issue Richland County knows all too well.

Richland County: a deep, underwater history

The quaint, quiet towns that are Shelby and Bellville sit as the north and south anchors of Richland County. Their populations combined do not exceed 11,000, but when it rains, memories of traumatic floods inevitably float to the surface.

The first hard hit the county suffered came from the infamous Great Flood of 1913 — which claimed an estimated 450 lives in Ohio and accrued a third of a billion dollars in damage across the 20 states it impacted.

Recovered newspaper clips reveal stories of devastation, loss of life and property. They also reveal a start to a conversation that has transcended into present time: what can we do to prevent this from happening again?

“T.R. Barnes, president of the Barnes Manufacturing company, one of the factories which suffered a very heavy loss in the flood, stated that he believed something ought to be done immediately to prevent the recurrence of a flood and that he would lend his support to any project that might be considered to relieve present conditions,” reads a local news article published March 1913.

The essence of that question spread nationally throughout the 20th century, when states suffered catastrophic natural disasters. In response, federal agencies sprouted up throughout the U.S.

Because of the increasing difficulty managing the innumerable agencies all striving to do the same thing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was formed in 1979, according to a FEMA spokesperson.

Still, the rains wreaked havoc. Ohio has received $214 million in public FEMA grants to provide relief for flooding catastrophes since 2001. That amount does not reflect monies earmarked for other catastrophic events that relate to Homeland Security, FEMA’s most recent added statutory authority.

The numbers tell a simple narrative: Ohio is a significant part of a six-state region that finds itself inundated with flooding issues. It’s a costly puzzle to solve, one which local governments are all familiar with; Shelby, Bellville and Mansfield most notably.

“The water has to go somewhere. And it naturally goes where it’s supposed to go,” said former Shelby mayor Marilyn John, now a Richland County Commissioner.

According to John, the city of Shelby has a storied past of an inundated downtown — the Black Fork of the Mohican River splits the city in east and west sides. Shelby is vulnerable to flooding because of its geography, she explained.

Shelby’s downtown business and residential area was dumped under water in 2007 when Floodplain Manager Joe Gies said a 500-year-flood hit the town. It was the worst flood residents experienced since 1913; in fact, Shelby was the subject of a FEMA Case Study published in December 2012.

Gies said the study gave the city impetus to seek grant monies to help mitigate flood damage costs. As a result, Shelby purchased 50 houses affected by flooding and demolished them. What remains now is a bare park with potential and memories.

The project led him to present at the 2014 Statewide Floodplain Management Conference in Columbus and won him and the city awards. 

“The challenges we have is we need to stop the water before it gets here, just slow it down,” Gies said.

Bellville Mayor Darrell Banks said floods seem to be getting worse and more frequent.

“The few years I’ve been mayor we had five minor floods from 2008 to 2013. The one in 2013 had much more damage, and they (the floods) kept getting closer together,” Banks said.

Mansfield has seen such consistent flooding in the same spot for so many years that FEMA designated it a floodplain. Mayor Tim Theaker said the city sustained damage to the floodplain after two floods in 2013 alone.

“Sixth Street is very prone to flooding. There’s a congestion of water and accumulation of a lot of water — that’s where it floods. It also floods down through the post office area and part of that floodplain,” Theaker said.

So what’s the solution?

Chapter 4: Watershed Conservancy Subdistricts

The Subdistrict

This map shows a portion of the Chippewa Subdistrict, located in Seville, Ohio and part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.

Ohio watershed conservancy districts have been around since before the 1930s when a man named Arthur E. Morgan took it upon himself to find a solution to flood-prone areas, specifically the Dayton area. He was motivated by the devastation that happened there in 1913.

Once Morgan envisioned a solution, he formed a board, chaired it and named it the Tennessee Valley Authority. It became a flood control system that would influence several similar programs throughout the United States.

This was the origin of what is known today as conservancy law. The system has funded levies and dam structures that prevent communities like Dayton, Miami and other counties throughout Ohio from becoming devastatingly inundated when rain relentlessly falls.

Morgan went on to become the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District’s first Chief Engineer in 1933. There, he helped formulate an official plan, ratified by the conservancy court in November 1934. The plan included the construction of 14 dams and reservoirs within the 18-county region.

Today, MWCD manages 54,000 acres of public water and land, with 10 lakes and multiple streams and rivers. It is the largest watershed conservancy district among the 20 in Ohio.

“When the flooding system (MWCD) was built, it was constructed in order to greatly mitigate the risk of flooding and loss of lives,” Chief Engineer Boris Slogar explained. “The system has been very successful to that end. So much so that the Army Corp of Engineers has estimated $10 billion of damages have been averted because of the system.”

But how?

Assessments.

Individual property owners who live within the watershed districts are charged anywhere from $10 to $15 per year, also known as an assessment, Slogar explained. That money is then pooled and used to employ engineers trained to maintain the water systems built to reduce flooding.

The MWCD, under an amended assessment plan initiated in 2009, collects $9 million to $10 million in assessment costs per year. This is based on collecting assessments from 500,000 residents. According to its website, 96 percent of those assessed pay $12 annually.

Those millions of dollars are used to maintain the 14 existing dams.

But only the communities that opted to be part of the watershed districts can benefit from the flood control system. Although parts of Richland County are within MWCD’s boundaries, county officials opted out of assessments in the 1930s. In other words, Richland County residents do not pay into an assessment, thus denying the citizens the opportunity to reap its benefits.

But there is hope.

Under conservancy law, flood-prone communities like Shelby and Bellville have the opportunity to form subdistricts under the Muskingum WCD — which is exactly what they have decided to do.

In 2011, former Shelby mayor Marilyn John, along with the city’s Floodplain Manager Joe Geis, reactivated a dormant Black Fork Subdistrict. According to John, the subdistrict had been inactive since the 1960s. According to conservancy law, subdistricts have the authority to assess its property owners just as the Muskingum WCD.

John, who is now a Richland County Commissioner, expects the subdistrict to glean an amount of assessments similar to a neighboring subdistrict just southwest of Akron: the Chippewa Subdistrict.

Chippewa earned a little over $373,000 in assessments in 2015. After one-third of it went to two part-time engineers, office rent and other overhead expenses, $256,000 went to maintaining its eight dam systems sprawled throughout a 188-square-mile rural area.

According to Slogar, the Muskingum WCD is currently working on a preliminary design of a flood control system along the Black Fork of the Mohican River.

The study has come at no cost to Shelby. And once finished with the study, which will include a cost, Shelby’s city officials and conservancy court judge Phillip Mayer will vote on whether the project is worthwhile.

Bellville Mayor Darrell Banks supports the Watershed Conservancy District model. So much so, that he decided to form the Clear Fork Subdistrict in 2014.

“We’re in the researching stage right now,” Banks said of the Clear Fork Subdistrict.

Chapter 5: Why are subdistricts a solution?

Rubble and Water

Rubble from the recent Napoli's Pizza building demolition in Shelby remain close to the infamous Black Fork of the Mohican River that flows through the city. 

There are many reasons subdistricts can work, said Chief Engineer Boris Slogar. The formation of a subdistrict under any of Ohio’s 22 watershed conservancy districts is possible for any community, including those within Richland County.

The process is simple — and enticing, Slogar believes.

First, the formation and activation of a subdistrict does not cost the community a penny.

“We foot the bill for the design of a flood control system," Slogar said. "It doesn’t cost the community anything in the first stages of research and design.”

Once it is determined that a subdistrict and its newly designed flood control system is cost effective (a multi-pronged process that takes months), the decision to construct that system is totally put in the hands of the people. According to Slogar, under conservancy law, citizens are granted the right to decide whether a subdistrict should or should not be employed.

In fact, Muskingum WCD won’t even move forward without a majority vote in favor.

“It’s a grassroots effort from folks in those areas,” Slogar said. “And they use conservancy law to get there.”

Like citizens in Shelby and Bellville are doing now, the people from Seville did just that in the late 1950s. Their subdistrict was their solution for a flooding problem that had claimed approximately 20 lives, damaged 10,000 homes and destroyed over 100 businesses throughout its history.

Seville’s subdistrict — the Chippewa Subdistrict — was deemed cost effective because the cost to maintain it was far cheaper than costs associated with patchwork done after disastrous floods.

As mentioned in Chapter 4, a flood control system is paid for through yearly assessments.

Chippewa’s subdistrict received $373,170 in 2015 from its assessment, which means each landowner within the subdistrict paid around $11 — for the entire year.

“That’s considered a reasonable cost for most people here,” said David Kopchak, Chippewa Project Coordinator. “We have very few objections from those assessed -- probably because it’s so small.”

That $373,000 went to maintain Chippewa’s flood control system which includes eight dams and 33 miles of channeling.

Kopchak is in charge of maintaining Chippewa’s subdistrict. He works on a part-time basis, walking along the reservoirs and dams to make sure everything checks. He is on high-alert during rain events.

Richland County Commissioner and former Shelby mayor Marilyn John said her visit to the Chippewa Subdistrict inspired her to reactivate the Black Fork Subdistrict in 2011.

“We can fix this problem. We could be looking at no flooding in Richland County … how amazing is that?” John said. “I didn’t think it was possible until I went to the Chippewa Subdistrict.”

Mayor Darrell Banks quickly followed suit after learning of the benefits from forming a subdistrict. As a person who grew up in the flood-prone land of Bellville, it made sense.

Banks said he lived through floods that hit his hometown in 1959, 1964 and 1987. He said the one in 1987 caused damage that amounted to about $3.3 million. As mayor, his community endured five floods from 2008 to 2013.

“The one in 2013 caused much more damage. And the floods just kept getting closer and closer together,” Banks said.

But Shelby and Bellville are not the only communities that have suffered from floods within Richland County. They’re also not the only communities endeavoring to find a solution — Mansfield has its own plan in the works.

The city of Mansfield is undergoing research for a $24 million project that would create its own watershed made up of four regional detention basins. EMH&T is conducting research for phase two of the project and City Engineer Bob Bianchi said he expects it to be ready for phase three in four to five months.

Mansfield’s floodplain, which lies in the northern section of the city and includes buildings like the post office and North End neighborhoods, has been under EMH&T’s research microscope since late 2013.

Council Report

Bob Bianchi, City Engineer, presents the findings of a ten-month study seeking solutions to Mansfield's flooding problems.

The project creates an opportunity for economic development, since many businesses have left the floodplain due to the increase in flooding in recent years, said Mansfield mayor Tim Theaker. Also, most homes and businesses within the city’s floodplain have unfavorable flood insurance premiums because of FEMA’s Special Flood Hazard Area designation.

According to a FEMA graph, flood insurance premiums for businesses and residential homes within moderate to low-risk flood areas range from $130 to $4,900 per year.

Paying for flood damage is pricey. The average flood insurance policy costs about $700 per year, according to the National Flood Insurance Program. The NFIP graphic below runs through different scenarios to help homeowners and business owners get a grip on the price tag attached to flood damage control.

Mansfield’s Chief Deputy Engineer Steve Risser said although flood insurance is not mandated under any city, state or federal law, the insurance premiums may come to owners as a surprise.

“I don’t think (flood) insurance necessarily shuns people away from owning businesses are homes in SFHAs, but I do think it comes as an unexpected expense,” Risser said.

As of now, Theaker and Bianchi said the city does not have a plan to pay for the multi-million dollar project. They said FEMA grants would not likely be available for this kind of project.

But a successful implementation of a plan that mitigates flooding could lift FEMA’s floodplain and/or SFHA designation for the area. In fact, anything that reduces an area’s chance of being flooded could play into FEMA’s decision to uplift those condemning designations.

“Save money on flood insurance by reducing your flood risk. Flood insurance premiums are based on flood risk. Therefore as flood risk increases, flood insurance premiums also increase,” reads a FEMA informational pamphlet found on Richland County’s Building Regulations page.

Slogar said forming a watershed subdistrict is one effective way to overrule a FEMA floodplain designation.

“As long as the flood control system is properly permitted and maintained, there’s typically a reduction in those types of costs (flood insurance) for residents and businesses,” Slogar explained.

Final thoughts

A watershed conservancy district or subdistrict can be understood as a ubiquitous insurance policy in which all its dwellers pay.

Therefore, those outside of those jurisdictional lines are often forced to pay steep and individualized insurance policies formulated by banks and reinforced by FEMA guidelines.

Mansfield

Mansfield is one example of a community outside of a watershed conservancy district’s ‘insurance policy’ jurisdiction. Therefore, its residents who live or own a business with a mortgage on a floodplain are often paying an average of $700 per year toward flood insurance.

Can a community like Mansfield initiate a flood mitigation model under a watershed conservancy subdistrict’s guidelines?

Mansfield officials say no because subdistricts do not generally work well in urban areas. Muskingum MCD officials agree, but are quick to remind that subdistricts do not have geographical limits. Subdistricts can be big or small, geographically speaking. Currently, there are five subdistricts within Muskingum’s boundaries.

Mansfield officials have chosen to go a different route because forming a subdistrict was found to be unfeasible. The project is expected to cost around $24 million. The chief problem lies in how the city will generate funds for it.

Theaker said FEMA money will likely not be available.

“What we have and we’re looking at is maybe there’s a different or better way to pay for this,” Theaker said.

He and Bianchi expect to have a better grip of a finance plan in about four months once EHM&T report the results of a deeper study, also referred to as Phase Two for the project.

A philosophical dilemma

Water travels through and past political boundaries, ignoring rules and regulations in different geographies.

“Rivers through the millennium are meant to change. Honestly, that's mother nature,” Richland Soil and Water Conservation District Administrator John Hildreth said. “It’s the age-old problem: people want change. And change usually manifests itself in a more impervious surface, so … ”

In other words, when cities grow — rivers rise.

Hildreth has devoted 25 years to solve issues like those flooding has created for farmer Richard Masters and business owner Dan Tucker. So far the attempted method was to create a fund through increased sales tax, to no avail. The bill has made it to the ballot three separate elections, and failed each time.

“The vast majority of people do not want tax money being spent in that direction. It’s very, very frustrating,” he said.

In Hildreth’s mind, citizens want their city to develop, but they don’t want to have to pay for it through increased taxes. Therefore, he is limited in the help he can offer. Usually the assistance involves redirecting to different agencies like the Ohio EPA or the Army Corps of Engineers.

All communities within Richland County have waters flowing through them, some more tumultuous than others. Each city or village’s flood mitigation plans affect neighboring community’s flooding. When Shelby and Bellville/Butler implement their wet and dry dams, they will likely improve other communities flooding issues.

So until the waters of Shelby, Bellville and Butler are operating under engineering scrutiny from the Muskingum WCD, or any flood mitigation plan, landowners like Richard Masters will need to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or their regional EPA office to fix their individualized dilemmas.

If you or someone you know is in a similar situation as Masters, fill out the three-page application from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, helpful information is available on the website.

These permits allow landowners to construct their own embankments like the one Dan Tucker built for himself at his junkyard in Mansfield. Though the embankments are temporary fixes likely to need patchwork after major rain events, Tucker said it’s better than nothing.

“It’s not much, but it’ll make do for now.”

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I'm a left-handed goofball who likes drinking coffee. I like reading books, playing outside & watching movies with my wife past midnight. I'm a Christian disenchanted with religiosity but enchanted with journalism.