Point Place Dike Report      Click link on left to view the preliminary report made by FTC&H for the City of toledo.

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“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’.” - Ronald Reagan

 

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What is going on here?

 

Point Place residents in Toledo, Ohio love being by the lake.  But their love of the water will soon become more expensive.

 

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has begun re-evaluating flood plains and toughening standards on flood control devices, such as dikes and dams.  Many communities all over the United States are suddenly faced with new requirements to purchase costly flood insurance.  New buildings will face tougher codes and higher construction costs.

 

The dike that protects a large portion of Point Place from flood waters is just over 4 miles long and goes along the shores of Maumee Bay of Lake Erie, and the Ottawa River.  It was constructed in the Early 1980's by the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).  After it's completion, maintenance responsibilities were handed over to the City of Toledo.  Since the dike was built, there has been no flooding in the area caused by high river or lake levels.   NOAA Records back to 1970 show that the highest recorded lake levels in Toledo were 576.16 feet.  This occurred on April 9, 1998 and it was about 2 feet higher than the previous day and the following day.  This odd fluctuation is known as “Seiche” in which high winds force the water from one end of the lake to the other.  This type of event would cause the worst flooding amongst shore line property. 

 

What is FEMA doing?

 

According to the new preliminary FEMA flood maps, much of the area we know as Point Place will be in the new flood plain.  These areas are determined by complex calculations and modeling to have a high risk of flooding within a 100-year period (or have a 1% chance of flooding in any given year).   According to Toledo Councilman Lindsey Web, there are about 1,700 Point Place residents that will be affected by these changes.  The primary reason for these changes is the levee system, or dike has had deficiencies identified recently by the USACE.  A 2008 report from the Corp revealed that numerous trees, some structures placed by residents, natural settling of the dike structure, and possible improper pipe outlet penetrations put in by the city are factors that may have led to them “decertifying” the Point Place Flood Control System.

 

The City of Toledo has long known that FEMA would be putting all flood control systems under scrutiny.  The 2008 Army Corp report findings have not been shared with residents along the dike.  The only action the City has done is to contract an engineering firm out of Cincinnati to perform a comprehensive survey of the Point Place flood control system..  It is puzzling that the taxpayers are paying $60,000 for a study on the conditions of the dike when no actions have been done per the existing USACE report.  There should have been an action plan in force immediately after the Corp. of Engineers issued their report.  Unfortunately, time is of the essence, and at this point there are no other options but to find out the shortcomings of the flood control system and begin repairs and reinforcements.  While nobody knows what type of expense the city will undergo, numbers between $500,000 and $3 million have come up.  Even if the city cannot afford to satisfy the new FEMA floodplain requirements, we owe it to ourselves to restore the flood system so that it can continue to protect our property as well as it has in the past.

 

Are we Really at risk of flooding?

 

Was April 9, 1998 our 100-year flood event?  According to some scientific studies, one going back 265 years by co-relating tree rings to lake levels, Lake Erie has historically been lower.  Actual tree stumps found on the bottom of the lake give evidence that around 5,000 years ago, Lake Erie would have been 46 feet lower than it is now.  At that time the Western basin, where Toledo is located, would have been a separate shallower lake.  Factors such as global warming, (which have yet to be completely proven or explained) could lead to less snow-pack build up in the winter months, decreasing the additional water volume that typically comes in the spring, but perhaps also helping sustain higher levels through the winters.  In Niagara Falls, massive volumes of water are diverted each night into holding ponds or “batteries” to be used for hydro-electric generation.  This causes the falls to literally “shut off” and the river levels upstream drop in the evenings some 4 feet.  The levels of the river are returned to normal by daylight.  The volume of water that is used for hydro power at Niagara is limited by treaty, but some records indicate as much as 80% of the water flowing down the Niagara River have been used for power generation.  Increasing these amounts may have some cumulative effects on lowering the Lake Erie water levels, especially if they are already above normal.  However, the ability to use the Hydro system for flood control is greatly limited by flow of water that is impeded in the upper Niagara River at the Peace Bridge.   The Welland Canal is another much smaller source for outflow.  On top of moving a dozen or so ships a day to and from Lake Ontario, some of its waters are being used for hydro generation on a small scale.  If the lake was in a flood state, the volumes used in the canal would likely increase both by necessity to move the ships the extra vertical distance, but also additional volumes of water could be diverted for Hydroelectric generation.  In summary, Engineers do not seem to recognize the structures on the East end of Lake Erie as significant flood control devices.

 

So what can I do as a homeowner?

 

For those in the designated FEMA Flood Zones, Flood insurance will be required by most mortgage lenders.  Those who begin their insurance in the year before flood insurance becomes mandatory effect will pay lower rates based upon the current flood maps.  (get that?  you have until the end of December 2009 to start your flood insurance at the lower rate!)  When the new map takes effect, they will be grandfathered in at a discounted rate.  So it can pay off to talk to your homeowners insurance agent before your bank asks you to.  Another way to save money on flood insurance is to have a surveyor do a flood certification on your property.  A flood certification shows the elevations of the land surrounding the home, the floors of the living spaces, as well as the electrical and mechanical devices.  (Furnaces, AC units, etc.).  Also they will identify the presence of flood vents or supports in your foundation could help prevent collapse in the event of a flood.  Showing this information helps the underwriters better understand the risks and reduce premiums.  Write, call, or email your congressman.  Senator Sherrod Brown and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (419-259-7500) may have some pull in getting FEMA to reconsider their flood plain analysis.  Also they may have resources to go to and find State and Federal funding for the repair or upgrade of our dike.

 

 

About the Author:  Kent Baker grew up in Vermilion, Ohio where he fell in love with Lake Erie and boating at a young age.  At 9 he began sailing, and by age 12 was racing sailboats.  After graduating from The Ohio State University in 1992 he moved to Florida, where he hoped he would be doing more boating.  He managed many stores in New York and Florida for a major marine retailer, which eventually brought him back to Ohio right here in Point Place.  Boating proved to be more fun back the Great Lakes, so he took roots, and eventually married Erica Stange, a lifelong Point Place native.  He is currently self-employed with Maumee Bay Boatworks, specializing in Marine Canvas and Upholstery.  He is still an avid sailor crewing on many racing boats in the summer, and enjoys racing ice boats in the winter months.  Kent served as Commodore of the Toledo Ice Yacht Club in 2007.  He has pwns 1965 19' Lyman powerboat and is partners with his father in law on an Ericson 27 Sailboat.  Kent and Erica live in a house on the Maumee Bay in Point Place.

 

 

 

Special thanks to the Toledo Ice Yacht Club for providing the web space.    Hit Counter  have visited this site so far.