The Village of Oak Harbor received an investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve its water infrastructure last week. A $3.83 million loan and a $2.9 million grant will fund the long-awaited Church Street Improvement Project, a $6.73 million storm water and sanitary sewer upgrade mandated by the Ohio EPA.
The project is part of a $192 million investment through the USDA’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. Rural communities, water districts and other eligible entities can use the funds for drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems in rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
“The $2.9 million grant is what is most exciting for the village,” said Oak Harbor Mayor Quinton Babcock. “That will cover 43 percent of the Church Street Improvement Project. We now have a combined sewer and storm water lines that overwhelm the sewage treatment plant when we have major rain events, and causes flooding.”
Combined storm water and sanitary sewer lines are very common around Ohio, said Babcock, with 72 communities still having that sort of system. Babcock said efforts to solve the flooding problems in the village in 2002 actually made flooding worse.
“Since I became a member of Village Council in January 2016, we’ve been talking about the Church Street Improvement Project. It is gratifying we’ll finally begin the project in 2020.
In 2010, Oak Harbor was required by Ohio EPA to implement a Controlled Overflow System, which would maintain existing service while limiting any outfalls into the Portage River. This falls under the Ohio EPA’s statewide program. Unfortunately, the project resulted in severe flooding in several areas of the village.
“We are very grateful to the USDA for providing funding that will allow us to address this problem by removing millions of gallons of storm water from our system,” said Babcock. “That will mitigate flooding and controlled system overflows, reducing risks to both our residents and our ecosystem.
“It will allow us to install a new water line, which will increase fire protection, new road surfacing, which will result in a smoother ride and greater aesthetics, as well as install new, more accessible sidewalks along the length of Church Street.”
They separation of the combined sewer system along Church Street will have the capacity to convey a one-hour storm without any risk of surface flooding, said Babcock. Installation of new water lines with an increased capacity to replace the existing 60- to 100-year old water line will improve fire protection, including the installation of new hydrants.
“The modernization of our water infrastructure is a necessary undertaking,” said Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green). “This grant will make it easier for Oak Harbor to fund needed wastewater projects that will reduce flooding and prevent untreated wastewater from entering waterways in (Lake Erie’s) western basin watershed.”