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Yellow Creek advocates explore conservancy idea

7/31/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

The storm May 12 caused extensive damage to homes and roads in Bath. Among the casualties was a camper that traveled downstream.
Damage from a May 12 storm, shown at right on Shaw Road, heightened a sense of urgency in the township to seek solutions to storm water problems. One idea is to form a watershed conservancy district.
Sediment damage from the May 12 storm is shown above. During the storm, 5 inches of rainfall fell in less than three hours in Bath, according to township officials.
Photos courtesy of Jan Schutte-Reed
BATH — The July 21 meeting of the Friends of Yellow Creek provided attendees with information about forming a watershed conservancy district, which could be expected to provide some solutions to flooding, among other positive benefits, according to Jim Rozelle, of Storm Water Engineering LLC in Centerville.

The purposes of a district also include regulating streams, reclaiming lands, providing for irrigation, regulating stream flow, diverting streams, providing water supply, sewage disposal, arresting erosion and recreation, according to Rozelle.

Yellow Creek drains into the Cuyahoga River, and its watershed, which is about 31 square miles, covers Bath and portions of Richfield, Granger, Sharon, Cuyahoga Falls, Copley, Fairlawn and Akron, according to information provided by Friends of Yellow Creek.

Creating a conservancy can do a number of things for the watershed area, Rozelle said, including funding watershed assessment studies, water quality improvements, erosion control, regional detention and retention basins, establishment and protection of wetlands, channel modifications, bridge and culvert replacements, levee and floodwall construction, removal of frequently damaged property and recreation.

Rozelle outlined the process for creating a conservancy district, beginning with presenting a petition in Summit County Common Pleas Court. Later steps include establishing a board of directors, preparing an official plan for improvements and holding several court hearings. Finally, assessments would be levied, and the plan could begin to be carried out.

Ohio law also states each tract of land and public corporation within the district, which contains around 9,600 parcels of land, would be levied assessments for building and maintaining improvements, he said.

Brenda McShaffrey, co-founder of the Yellow Creek Action Committee, which formed in May after a severe storm caused flood damage to a number of homes in Bath, said funding a conservancy district would not be very expensive at all for those living within the watershed area.

“It would be less expensive than a ditch petition,” a possibility her committee also has been exploring to prevent further flooding in Bath, “and would be more helpful,” she said.

In conservancy districts around Ohio, assessment fees vary.

In the wide-reaching Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, 496,000 properties are assessed, with landowners paying an average of $1.87 per month per parcel, according to Rozelle.

“There is a real urgency that we need to get the word out to people and educate them before there’s more damage. We could have more roads and more bridges out,” McShaffrey said following Rozelle’s presentation.

Finding and implementing solutions is imperative for the whole watershed area, not just those living right along Yellow Creek, she added.

In Ohio, 57 conservancy districts have been formed over the past hundred years, with 20 currently active, according to Rozelle.

Over the past year, Rozelle also has worked with officials in Barberton, Copley and Norton on potentially creating the Wolf Creek Watershed Conservancy District.

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