Black Fork River

A look at the Black Fork River as shown this past spring in the Shiloh area during a viewing of the river.

MANSFIELD--When it comes to the Black Fork River Ditch petition effort, officials recently shared data on what they found in terms of problems on the river.

An in-person viewing found two logjam locations and other brush and debris along the riverbanks, Richland County Engineer Adam Gove reported at the ditch petition public hearing on Aug. 5.

Drone footage, however, was able to identify and document further problems for review, according to the presentation.

In addition, the Richland County Soil and Water Conservation District representatives kayaked 18 miles covered in the ditch petition area and “had first-hand experience of the whole river,” Gove noted.

According to information presented, the findings in viewing the ditch petition area found:

* 500 dead trees*

*65 leaning trees located next to the stream channel

* 130 single-trees in the water

* 45 small logjams

* 15 medium log jams

* 10 large logjams

At the conclusion of a roughly 90-minute hearing, the Richland and Crawford County Joint Board of County Commissioners voted to keep the process going.

Specifically, they voted 6-0 to approve the petition, finding the proposed improvement necessary, conductive to the public welfare and is reasonably certain that the benefits outweigh the costs.

At the event, Gove offered extensive remarks during the hearing in addition to a PowerPoint presentation.

Commissioner Cliff Mears referred to Gove as “the star of the show” given the amount of data presented.

During the hearing, Mears read the petition.

“I feel it is necessary to read the petition that started this,” he told the crowd.

The petition references the city of Shelby.

“On behalf of the city of Shelby, I, Mayor Steven Schag and members of the rural community hereby respectfully present the Richland County Board of Commissioners with a ditch petition for the Black Fork River,” Mears said in reading the document.

“The proposed cleaning and maintenance designation for the petition is from the Mickey Road Bridge in Shelby, Sharon Township, Richland County, to the eastern edge of the water course bridge at State Route 13 Franklin Township, Richland County,” Mears detailed.

The petition represents 10,457 total parcels covering the Black Fork River watershed area in Richland and Crawford counties,” he also said.

“We the petitioners respectively request the Board of Commissioners to examine and study the economic benefits to the city of Shelby and the approximately 70,000 acres of agriculture community that lie within the petitioned watershed area,” the document read.

Gove noted that the petition was filed by the city of Shelby and about 65-68 other property owners in Crawford and Richland counties.

It is considered a legal ditch petition under terms of the Ohio Revised Code, Gove reported.

In the petition, it states about four purposes of the ditch petition Gove said.

That includes removing brush, logjams, tree piles, leaning trees, felled trees, dead trees within and along the banks of the Black Fork River.

“Tonight, I filed my report with the Joint Board with my preliminary findings and estimates,” Gove stated in his remarks.

That written report posted on the engineer’s website includes updated information on the number of parcels involved since the petition’s filing in February and along with further details.

Gove wrote that the petition includes approximately 18 miles of the Black Fork River, starting south of the Mickey Road bridge inside the City of Shelby, and then running north and east to the bridge on State Route 13.

“The watershed of this section of river is approximately 70,024 acres and has approximately 10,567 property parcels,” he stated.

“The watershed contains areas in eight townships in Richland County (Plymouth, Cass, Bloominggrove, Butler, Sharon, Jackson, Franklin, and Springfield), two townships in Crawford County (Auburn, Vernon), as well as the cities of Shelby and Ontario, and the Village of Shiloh,” he added.

The report states the possible work to be included in the petition:

* remove brush, log jams, tree piles, leaning trees, felled trees, and dead trees from within and along the banks of the river

* Conduct necessary bank armoring or stabilization

* Perform any additional duties deemed necessary, including but not limited to the removal of silt bars and brush piles

* the removal of trees, debris and brush 20 feet back from the top of the bank, “except whereas trees or structures are designated to remain standing.”

* maintain the waterway from the obstructions

“Work will most likely be limited to 25 feet from the top of (the) bank on both sides of the river, and any additional clearing that may be necessary for access to those areas,” Gove wrote.

In his remarks, Gove detailed the process and noted why the number of parcels had changed after the petition’s filing in February.

“After the filing of the petition, the Richland and Crawford Commissioners got together and formed a joint board on March 9,” he said.

“The notices were mailed to landowners and April 9 of this year. There were some parcels that were missed, and additional notices were mailed out to some Crawford County residents on May 4.”

The number of parcels went up from the original number due to parcels that were not identified originally before the petition was filed, Gove said in later comments.

“So far since the filing of the petition and getting preliminary reports, having viewings, we’ve spent $15,300,” Gove told the audience.

“I believe close to $7,000 of that was just the mailings. It’s not cheap to do these mailings to over 10,000 parcels,” Gove said.

Officials noted that the 6-0 vote does not mean the project itself is approved but instead means that the board is moving forward with the process.

The action also means that Engineer Gove will take steps with developing plans, specifications, survey estimates and assessment schedules, according to information presented at the meeting held at the Richland County Longview Center, 1495 W. Longview Ave. in Mansfield.

A final hearing is to be scheduled at a later date, officials have said.

Check the Shelby Daily Globe for future coverage of the ditch petition efforts, including estimated costs, what would be involved, additional information and more.

See for a photo gallery of this spring’s river viewing.

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