NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio — Judges of the 5th District Court of Appeals have agreed with the decisions of a lower court that permit assessments of property owners by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District to fund a plan of maintenance and rehabilitation in the system of reservoirs and dams in the Muskingum River Watershed.
The appeals court affirmed the decisions of the Conservancy Court and held that the appraisal methodology was reasonable and all procedural and due process requirements had been met.
The Conservancy Court holds jurisdiction over the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District and is a court of common pleas that consists of one judge from each of the 18 counties in the conservancy district region.
“We are pleased by the decisions and we’ll do our best to uphold the public’s trust in administering the maintenance plan,” said John M. Hoopingarner, Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District executive director/secretary.
“We’re looking forward to getting the maintenance projects started as soon as possible.”
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District’s maintenance plan will protect and create hundreds of private-sector jobs in upcoming years and lead to the potential investment of more than $600 million by the federal government in the watershed, Hoopingarner said.
The watershed — which drains the region of Ohio where runoff stormwater drains into the Muskingum River before emptying into the Ohio River at Marietta — is the largest in the state.
The 5th District Court of Appeals decisions denied the claims filed by property owners David L. Blackwell, Joseph R. Carlisle Jr., the Dean F. Levengood Revocable Trust, Scott Levengood, the Tripodi Family Trust, N. Kathryn Walker and Anthony B. Zadra. Blackwell, the Levengoods, Tripodi and Zadra own property in Tuscarawas County, Carlisle owns property in Carroll County and Walker’s property is located in Stark County.
The appellate court wrote in its rulings that “we fail to find where and how (the property owners) have not been accorded every substantial consideration of their rights of due process of law.”
The property owners challenged the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District’s authority to levy assessments, which are provided for in the Ohio law that deals with conservancy districts.
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, a political subdivision of the state of Ohio, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, leading to the construction of 14 reservoirs and dams several years later.
The 18 counties wholly or partially contained in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District jurisdiction are Ashland, Belmont, Carroll, Coshocton, Guernsey, Holmes, Harrison, Knox, Licking, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Richland, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas, Wayne and Washington.
More information about the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District is available at http://www.mwcd.org.