The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District has purposely mislead more than 2 million citizens within the district to believe it still maintains a role in flood reduction to justify its unlawful attempt to levy a property tax assessment.
The district’s current goal — to collect more than $10.5 million each year — will be achieved by simply adding an additional tax to nearly every parcel of property within its boundary.
The district has neglected to inform its citizens that everything changed in 1939 after Congress passed the 1939 Flood Control Act.
Before then, the district actually owned all the Official Plan’s dams, levees, rights-of-ways and flood easements. After this law was passed, the district no longer owned any of these. Congress specifically ‘relieved’ the district of any ‘obligation’ to operate or maintain these works and improvements.
The Flood Control Act of 1936 saw the federal government accepting some flood control responsibility, but local entities were still obligated to certain costs and expenses.
The 1938 Flood Control Act essentially waived all local costs for local entities. But, due to the nature of the district’s agreements with the federal government, the MWCD did not receive the benefits of the 1938 act.
To resolve this inequity, the 1939 Flood Control Act specifically included the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District as a part of the 1938 Flood Control Act. The district was reimbursed for all its cost-share expenses, resulting in a $0 cost-share expense for the original work.
Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asserts the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 grants them (not the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District) the authority to collect a local cost share.
The 1986 act specifies a local cost share equal to a percentage of the original local cost share. Since there was no original local cost share, due to the retroactive application of the Flood Control Acts of 1938 and 1939, there should be no local cost share due for the desired ‘rehabilitation.’
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District has volunteered to utilize its assessment power to collect this illicit cost share, as well as additional money for projects that are outside the scope and purpose for which it was created.
As a bonus for its complicity, the district will be permitted retain approximately $44.8 million over the next 20 years for so-called design, planning and administrative fees.
However, the assessment does not simply go away at the end of the specified 20 year period. It goes on indefinitely with the likelihood to increase each and every year it is collected.
The question remains: How can the district obligate all property owners within the district to pay a local cost share it, itself, is not obligated to pay?
The effect of the 1936-1939 flood control acts appear to remain in full force and effect to this very day. Whatever authority the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District has retained, it does not include flood control.
Accordingly, the impending maintenance assessment is invalid and unlawful for such a purpose.
Mineral City, Ohio
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