Jerusalem Twp. gets grant to assess state of aging levee system

Article From The Blade:

$83,000 AWARDED

Eye toward climate change effects

One of the Great Lakes region’s biggest climate change impacts is being felt in eastern Lucas County’s tiny Jerusalem Township.

Trustees Mark Sattler, David Bench, and Beau Miller want to keep township homes and businesses from flooding.

The township, in partnership with the Reno Beach Howard Farms Conservancy District, has obtained an $83,000 grant from the Ohio Lake Erie Commission for an engineering study of the decades-old levee system designed to hold back water as Lake Erie rises.

The trio has had concerns about the levee system for years, not so much a newer portion installed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but much older sections installed by farmers decades ago.

Those concerns have grown in recent years as Lake Erie’s water level has run particularly high. There are times in which they believe the township narrowly avoided flooding.

At least half of Jerusalem Township is in a flood-prone area.

“If there’s a flooding event, it’s not going to come in where the Army Corps of Engineers built its dike,” Mr. Sattler said.

But a levee is only as good as its weakest point, he said.

Over the years, trees and a lot of brushy thicket grew over and around the older part of the levee so heavily that it can’t be seen in some areas. The fear is that, as some of those trees die and fall over, their root balls could breach the levee, Mr. Sattler said.

There also is evidence of damage by burrowing animals and erosion damage, he said.

Under many climate change scenarios, there are likely to be higher water levels and stronger winds from the northeast that could lead to flooding.

So the township is hiring an engineering firm to do a risk assessment and strategic plan for the existing levee system by the end of 2023. At that point, the trustees will know if they need to pursue money to strengthen it.

“By the end of 2023, we should have the problem and weak areas identified,” Mr. Sattler said.

He said he would like township residents to know that the engineering study is being paid entirely by the grant, and not with township dollars.

The township, though, will likely need to use some of its money for construction work, unless it can find other sources, because of cost-share requirements of many construction grants.

The township board’s goal was outlined in a recent news release.

“Ultimately, this project will help build resiliency in the face of potential large-scale flooding and intense storm events related to climate change and rising lake levels in Lake Erie,” the release states.

The request was supported by Metroparks Toledo, which built the Howard Marsh Metropark along the lake and adjacent to township property.

“We applaud the township’s foresight to plan for improvements that will not only protect its residents, businesses and visitors, but also improve the community’s ability to adapt to potential environmental threats and maintain infrastructure and access within this key coastal area,” Tim Schetter, the park district’s natural resources director, said in a letter to the state commission.

He agreed that the township needs the engineering study to see whether levee improvements are necessary “to withstand expected impacts from lake level changes related to climate change.”

“We look forward to continuing to partner with the township and provide assistance with this project through public engagement and technical expertise,” Mr. Schetter’s letter states.

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