Sunday, July 27, 2003

Ex-mayor leads Mill Creek fight

Plans restraining order for U.S. Corps of Engineers

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Former Cincinnati Mayor Tom Brush is leading an advocacy group's fight against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal agency's $2.15 million construction project behind Salway Park in Winton Place.

Brush, an attorney and board member of the Mill Creek Restoration Project, plans to personally deliver a temporary restraining order to U.S. District Court on Monday.

The group, which works with more than 1,000 volunteers annually, will ask a federal judge to put an immediate stop to bulldozers building an access road in the middle of the Mill Creek bed.

Members say the road is part of a project that will worsen flooding and ignores the group's request to put in more vegetation along the stream banks.

They are also upset because Sunesis Construction Co., the company that received the government's contract, destroyed a butterfly garden that was the pride of the Restoration Project and Cincinnati Public Schools students.

"We want them to stop it right now," Brush said. "We want to work out a solution that would be environmentally sensitive. When I went by there this morning, I really couldn't believe what I was seeing. They're just raping both sides of the stream."

Brush, who served as mayor in 1982-83, visited the park recently and saw bulldozers digging up huge mounds of dirt. Disturbed silt was falling into the creek, leaving the water cloudy near its edges. Heavy equipment was traveling through the creek's waters.

Bob Jansen is chief engineer for the Millcreek Valley Conservancy District, the local sponsor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said that the Corps already has done hydraulic studies proving that the project will not increase flooding downstream.

He emphasized that the Corps has been planning this project for two years. Vegetation will be planted along the creek's stream banks, he said. It just won't be to the Restoration Project's liking.

Jansen regrets that the court action could delay the project. "I just hate to see this happen," he said.

Mill Creek stretches 28 miles, from the Ohio River north to Liberty Township.

Robin Corathers, executive director of the Mill Creek Restoration Project, also visited Salway Park on Saturday. She said she saw the bulldozers in the creek bed and was outraged.

"Certainly, the Corps is front and center responsible for this huge problem," she said. "The Corps has not been acting in good faith. This is a valuable natural resource."

Corathers helped draw up a "value engineering" study that lists several recommendations for the Mill Creek project behind Salway Park.

But Sunesis began the project three weeks ago without incorporating the suggestions.

If uninterrupted, the project will be complete in a year.


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