Flood-prone river in NW Ohio spills over again

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FINDLAY, Ohio (AP) -- Heavy rains swelled rivers across northern Ohio on Friday, flooding streets and sending a few residents of one flood-prone town scurrying yet again.

Business owners in downtown Findlay where the Blanchard River cuts through moved their merchandise to higher ground before the river crested Friday. Rising water closed several streets and seeped into low-lying neighborhoods, but the flooding was not causing the same kind of damage as in recent years.

The latest flooding comes as Findlay waits to find out whether the federal government will pay to help complete a study on potential solutions for controlling the frequent floods. Flood prevention has become a top priority since 2007 when flooding caused millions of dollars in damage in Findlay and Ottawa.

Three members of Congress from Ohio sent a letter this week urging that the study receive funding so that it can be completed.

Local officials are willing to pay for half of the $3 million needed to complete the study and want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cover the other half. A decision on the request is expected in the next few months.

The Corps already has presented ideas that it says would not eliminate flooding but could decrease floodwater levels by three feet in Findlay during the worst flooding. Federal officials said in December that flood control for the river could cost up to $150 million or more.

Finishing the study is critical and delaying it could push back congressional funding for the project by seven years or more, Tony Iriti, head of a private group working to speed up flood projects, told The Courier newspaper.

There have been five major floods in the last six years in the city, which is about 40 miles south of Toledo. The worst damage came in August 2007 when flooding caused more than $100 million in damage.

The flooding Friday was much less severe.

A few streets were closed but there was no significant damage, city officials said. Some schools were delayed in the morning.

The river crested Friday just above 14 feet before its level began to drop, according to the weather service.

Several other rivers and streams in northern Ohio were close to overflowing, but so far there have not been any major evacuations or problems.

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Information from: The Courier, http://www.thecourier.com