Conservancy district gets extra loan to enact plan in Muskingum River Basin


NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio – The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District will receive an additional $1.6 million loan to help it prepare and implement a plan of maintenance and improvements in the Muskingum River Basin that will yield an estimated $2.5 billion worth of benefits within the watershed.
The Ohio Water Development Authority approved the loan funds during a meeting Dec. 14 in Columbus.
The Ohio Water Development Authority, a state agency that provides funding for environmental infrastructure projects, previously loaned the district $3.8 million in 2004 for the conservancy district to begin the planning process.
The district has been working over the past several years to implement a $270 million plan of maintenance and improvements to the system of reservoirs and dams, as well as water quality enhancements.
Projects in the plan would be funded through a proposed assessment of property owners in the 18-county the district region.
There are an estimated 750,000 parcels of property subject to the proposed assessment by the district.
To date, the district reports that it has expended slightly more than $4 million related to the proposal.
Fund use. Specifically, funds have been used to establish a Geographic Information System, inform the public through a public information and education program, legal and court costs, and staff expenses.
The district originally had stated that its goal was to begin maintenance and improvement work in 2007.
However, because of the length of time needed to complete the legal process related to exceptions filed by more than 5,000 property owners to projected assessments released early in 2006, the plan was delayed by one year and is projected to begin in 2008.
Accomplishments. Since its inception, the district system of reservoirs and dams has prevented more than $6 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to federal government estimates.
In most cases, the district will not directly perform the work, but will partner with interested agencies and private individuals, meaning the plan also will lead to the protection and creation of much-needed jobs with contracts enacted with private firms.
Projects. Projects that have been identified to be addressed include: working with the federal government for dam safety improvements, as well as work on sediment removal, shoreline protection, water quality improvements, watershed management and reservoir operations.
The conservancy district manages the reservoirs behind the dams in the system, while the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the dams. The district estimates the assessment will generate more than $11 million annually for projects to maintain and improve flood reduction and water quality programs in the watershed.

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