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A flood of incentive

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Homes along Fernwood Avenue were threatened by rising floodwaters after heavy rains two weeks ago.

City leaders are right to press forward with local solutions to flooding in Waynedale rather than wait for federal help. A local solution has worked in the past and is very likely the right thing to do now.

Residents in the Ferndale neighborhood, near Ardmore and Lower Huntington roads in Waynedale, are still dealing with the aftermath of the latest flood two weeks ago. City spokesman Frank Suarez said five to six homes in the area are repeatedly damaged by flooding. The most recent flood affected nine homes, plus many more residents who were inconvenienced by flooded streets and closed intersections.

The problem with the area is that residents not only have to worry about the Fairfield Ditch overflowing, they also have to worry about the St. Marys River and a combined sanitary and storm sewer that can’t handle the flow during a heavy rainstorm.

“It’s a very low area and it’s all in a flood plain area,” said Bob Kennedy, the city’s director of public works. “It’s also very flat. When the water goes over the banks of the Fairfield Ditch, there’s not enough contour to the land to hold it back. It’s a very difficult area to protect.”

For many years, city workers have rushed to the area with large temporary pumps in an effort to decrease the flood damage.

After the 2003 and 2005 floods, which caused more than $8 million in damage, city officials decided not to wait for help from the federal government. The city came up with several projects to control flooding and deal with basement backups in homes near the southern portion of the St. Marys River and Junk Ditch as well as Spy Run Creek. The projects included buyouts, floodwalls and a retention pond. A new stormwater fee and a $17.5 million bond paid for the projects.

Fortunately, the proposed projects to help the Ferndale area will not cost nearly that much, and some of the money has already been earmarked for the work.

“We are not going to bond for it. It will come from CEDIT or the general fund,” Kennedy said.

City leaders think the proposed projects will cost between $750,000 and $1 million for three separate projects, including installing a larger pipe to take water to the Fairfield Ditch, building an earthen berm and buying from willing homeowners four to six homes. The plan also calls for building an area specifically designed as a site for the temporary pumps.

Kennedy said the volume of water in the most recent flood was even greater than in the 2003 flood and is giving the city an incentive to move up the timing of the projects.

“We have been studying this with the Army Corps since the early 2000s, but we’ve decided we can’t wait any longer,” Kennedy said.

“We’ve done other projects locally and we’ve been very successful with them.”