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Prevent Small Stream Floods

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but do you suppose we could get some help to prevent a disaster, rather than to react to one?

Last week, Belmont County commissioners heard a report on a project to clean up stream beds and banks. It came from Mike Schlanz, who then was workforce administrator for OhioMeansJobs of Belmont County. He has been named interim director of the county Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Schlanz reported last Wednesday on a project to clean up streams, using federal funding meant to help dislocated workers. Commissioners and other local government officials were told the program involves nine workers, overseen by two crew leaders.

Crews have been or are working at more than 100 sites, grant coordinator Ken Wilson explained.

“It’s impressive work. It’s definitely not easy work,” commented Commissioner Josh Meyer.

“You see these sites, and it’s pretty apparent the issue that’s there,” chimed in Commissioner J.P. Dutton. “All of the debris that built up (in stream beds), you start thinking, ‘If we had a weather incident, what’s going to happen?'”

Local residents already know what would happen.

When flash floods occur in this area, their severity can be multiplied by stream beds blocked by debris. Fallen trees, rocks, mud from hillside slips and other obstructions create dams and flood water backs up, sometimes invading homes that could have been spared had water in the streams been running freely.

Funding for the cleanup initiative was obtained as a result of flooding about a year ago. Commissioner Jerry Echemann asked Schlanz about the possibility of obtaining additional federal funding for such work.

“There’d have to be a natural disaster occurring,” Schlanz replied.

No doubt the work being done now will limit the severity of flash floods in the future. But as people living near streams understand, debris builds up in them constantly. Regular cleanup work is needed to keep small streams clear.

But federal funding apparently is available only after the damage is done. Money to conduct regular cleanups could prevent future disasters. That is something members of Congress representing our area and others like it should be considering.

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