Farmers in northern Muskingum County try to understand why they’re experiencing more flooding on their lands.
Farmers and public officials gathered at the Dresden Village Hall to discuss the problem. Some farmers said they’re losing thousands in crops due to the rising water, which they believe has become more severe in recent years. One property owner leases her land.
"I feel for my tenant," explained property owner Connie Rine. "He had a great crop this year and now a great big hole in the field. He’s trying to raise a family and now he’s lost all that."
"Muskingum County produces millions of dollars and it’s vital in the area and the community," added State Representative of the 97th District Brian Hill. "Most of the land that we’re talking about, all this river bottom land is some of the most productive."
One reason Rine believes the land is becoming flooded is due to urban development.
"Our property’s right beside Longaberger," said Rine. "They’re great, but that also means a lot of blacktop. They moved 16 and that’s a lot more blacktop. It took away all the trees that slowed the water down."
While that could contribute to some of the issues the Army Corps of Engineers said the amount of rain we’ve received this year might have more to do with it.
"This year’s been an extremely wet year," said Jim Schray hydraulic engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers. "We’ve had in the last 3 months six inches above our normal. The farmer’s have been dealing with a lot more water then they normally do and that’s one of the reasons it’s a tough year for the farmers."
The Army of Corps of Engineers said when it rains their goal is to empty reservoirs as quickly as possible to get ready for the next rain event. When releasing water they take into account uncontrolled water sources, determine how much water an area can hold and try to keep water at their projects at certain levels. They use computer models to help determine their next move.
"If we get rain that results in downstream stages say at Dresden exceeding our control levels that’s 16 feet in the summer," said Schray. "We will close back Wills Creek and Mohawk as necessary to hold those levels as low as we can."
Schray said farmers may also notice more water now because from the 1960’s until Hurricane Katrina they kept the levels in Dresden at 15 feet, unofficially. This means more water was held back at an added risk, so after the hurricane levels went back to 16 feet.
Changing the level to 15 feet officially would take thousands of dollars and lots of studies.
Representative Hill said he hopes out of this meeting they can speak with congressional representatives about funding a study for lower water levels in the Dresden. Hill said he believes out of this meeting everyone is more informed about the issues.