Shared from the 5/17/2019 Sandusky Register eEdition


State of emergency declared

High water, erosion threatens Ottawa County infrastructure


High water floods the Jefferson Street Pier near the Port Clinton Yacht Club on Thursday. A state of emergency was declared as high water and erosion threaten infrastructure across Ottawa County.

Register photo/ WANDA CHANDLER


Erosion has caused power poles on West Lakeshore Drive in Port Clinton to lean.

Register photo/WANDA CHANDLER


Ottawa County officials declared a state of emergency Thursday as historically high water threatens the shoreline and causes millions of dollars in damage.

Areas of immediate concern are Port Clinton’s city beach along East Perry Street, which is closed until further notice, and West Lakeshore Drive. A break wall in northeastern Marblehead near Clemons Park and Ohio 163 and lakefront areas of Put-in-Bay Township and Middle Bass Island are also threatened.

“The repetitive wave-action bashing we’re getting is bad, and there doesn’t appear to be a lot of relief in sight,” said Fred Peterson, director of the Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency. “I wouldn’t say anyone’s safety is at risk today. But, as erosion continues, we could see further problems.”

The state of emergency was declared jointly by Ottawa County’s commissioners and the city of Port Clinton, where the problem is most dire.

Erosion exposed an underground electric line that powers a water pump near the Port Clinton beach. The line was reburied, and the city has worked to build more support to defend it. An orange fence, barricades and warning signage will also be installed, Mayor Mike Snider said.

The concern is what happens if that electric line is damaged.

“If we have to turn off power to that pump because of some sort of failure, we won’t be able to move stormwater out from that area,” said city safety-service director Olen Martin, who noted flooding could occur if the pump fails. “We’re taking every precaution and are working with engineers to implement a short-term fix and determine a long-term solution.”

Erosion also threatens power lines along West Lakeshore Drive in the city as high water causes several poles to lean.

Flooding has been an issue for years along Ottawa County’s coast, most notably in downtown Port Clinton. But, with historically high water this year, officials said they had to take action.

Countywide damage estimates aren’t yet available, but Martin projects millions of dollars in repairs could be needed in Port Clinton alone. For context, Port Clinton’s everyday operating budget is about $4 million this year.

“We’re talking about staggering amounts of money,” Martin said. “We don’t have millions of dollars set aside to handle this. We’ll need relief.”

Peterson said declaring a state of emergency is the first step in potentially receiving state financial aid for repairs. The emergency management agency is coordinating with townships and cities to calculate damage estimates.

Others have been contacted to assist, including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, Ohio Department of Public Works, state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, state Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton and FirstEnergy.

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