MANSFIELD -- Improved drainage and reduced flooding are the goals of a project to clean out about 15 miles of the Black Fork, a petition for which is expected to be filed with Richland County commissioners on Wednesday.
Commissioners on Tuesday created a new fund in their budget, where revenues for the project will flow if the effort is approved.
Those funds would come from assessments on about 10,500 parcels in the petitioned watershed area, involving approximately 70,000 acres, according to Erica Thomas, director of the Richland Soil & Water Conservation District.
Flooding along the Black Fork has been an ongoing issue in the Shelby area, including a massive flood in 2007 and smaller floods in subsequent recent years.
The work would be a continuation of two phases already privately planned and organized by Shelby residents at a cost of about $367,000, according to Thomas.
The RSWCD said phase one cleaned the waterway from Ohio 13 to State Street and that a second phase is nearly complete, clearing the Black Fork from State Street to Mickey Road.
"These two projects were beneficial in cleaning and clearing the river, but more work is necessary to help with continuing efforts to keep the river flowing," RSWCD said in a press release earlier this month.
"To help with the cleaning efforts and maintain the Black Fork River for years to come, the City of Shelby and rural community members will continue their efforts by filing a Joint Ditch Petition with the Richland County and Crawford County commissioners."
Crawford County is involved since some of the parcels that would benefit from the effort are in that county, commissioners said.
The petition, filed under Ohio Revised Code Section 6131, will request the river be cleaned and maintained annually by removing felled trees, leaning trees, log jams, and debris piles. The clearing of the obstructions will allow for better drainage and reduce risk of flooding.
"It also improves safety by removing rotting logs and trash, allowing for recreational use of the water including boating, fishing, birding, wildlife watching and enjoying the natural views," Thomas said.
The petition will request the Black Fork be cleaned and maintained from Mickey Road to State Route 13.
Commissioner Tony Vero said the petition is the first step in a process that could take several months to complete.
"This dates back to finding reasonable, feasible and financially prudent means to reduce flooding situations in the Shelby area," Vero said.
Commissioners said affected landowners would receive notifications of the proposal by mail, the county engineer's office would do a cost-benefit analysis and that public hearings would be held before any actions are taken.
Commissioners from both counties would have to approve the plan in order for it to be enacted. No anticipated costs have been determined yet.
"Just because a petition is filed doesn't mean property owners will be assessed," Vero said.
Also on Tuesday, commissioners:
-- approved a 5 percent salary increase for Richland County Youth & Family Council Executive Director Teresa Alt. Her new compensation will be $92,789 annually, commissioners said, who praised Alt's work, including her ability to obtain state and federal grants to support the YFC.
-- approved a request from the Richland County Fair livestock committee to purchase a "hands-free tagging system" for animal identification. Funds will come from the county's share of COVID-19 relief funds since the system would reduce in-person interaction between exhibitors and fair office personnel. The project is estimated at $12,000.