Joe Short, Fulton County commissioner, said on Monday, Oct. 4 the final piece of the puzzle is in place that will allow a stand of trees near the Fulton County airport to be removed.
The trees created a problem for pilots for more than 20 years. Prevailing westerly winds blowing through them cause turbulence to pilots trying to land.
The Federal Aviation Administration listed the trees as a violation, Short said.
Short said in October 2007 the trees would be down in 30 days, but Fulton County ran into several problems.
In the most recent attempt to remove the woods, it was discovered the stand of trees could be a habitat of the Indiana brown bat, an endangered species. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will only allow the trees to be removed between Oct. 1 and April 1, because the bats may nest in the trees over the summer months.
Then it was discovered the stand of trees constitutes a wetlands. Fulton County began purchasing credits in a wetlands mitigation land bank, but OEPA objected, calling for Fulton County to build a new wetlands area in the county.
The site OEPA selected is near the Fulton County Board of Developmental Disabilities facility in Wauseon. Short feared that a disabled individual who accidentally wandered away from the facility could walk into the OEPA-mandated wetlands and be harmed.
OEPA wanted soil from the original wetlands trucked from the site near the airport to Wauseon, driving up costs.
Fulton County officials wanted to use county workers to create the wetlands, but it is forbidden by law.
That alone, Short said, drove up the cost of creating the wetlands to $150,000 or more.
Short said OEPA later agreed to allow the county to purchase 2.2 additional credits, to go along with seven-tenths (.7) of a credit the county had already purchased in the wetlands mitigation bank.
The cost for the 2.2 credits was $50,600. Fulton County has applied for $150,000 in FAA grant money to help fund the project.
“It was nice to see OEPA found our reasoning sound,” Short said.
Once the landowners, Charles and Vicki Lynn Cline, rural Wauseon, have removed all of the trees they want, Fulton County has a contractor lined up to remove the remaining trees, then remove the stumps and prepare the land for farming.
“I am almost hesitant to smile,” Short said.
“This has been such a long and arduous process, but now everything’s in line, fi- nally.
“I have to give credit to Bob Latta (U.S. congressman (R-Bowling Green)), Steve Buehrer (Ohio Senator (RDelta), and Bruce Goodwin (state representative (R-Defi ance)),” he said. All worked on Fulton County’s behalf.
Short said when he became a commissioner, he took over responsibility of the airport.
While the task of removing the trees was difficult, he said he never gave up.
Besides, he said he could have the trees down in 30 days.
“I just never said when the 30-day clock started,” he said jokingly.