December 14, 2015

Indianapolis Announces How It Will Complete Northside Levee

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Updated, Dec. 17:

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis public works officials have finally decided how the city will complete a flood wall along the White River on the city's north side. The decision is being welcomed by some neighborhoods along the river, but denounced by others.

The public works department said in a Monday afternoon announcement it will extend an earthen levee from Kessler Boulevard to Butler University along the east side of the White River and Central Canal and connect it to high ground near Butler's athletic facilities.

That will require a flood gate to be built across the canal, north of Butler University's campus. The canal is a major source of drinking water for the city.

Construction of the levee, which is intended to protect residents living south and east of the river from flooding began in 2002, but then stalled after the second phase over pushback from neighborhood groups down river.

The city will pay a quarter of the $40 million construct cost and the Army Corps. of Engineers will fund the rest. When completed, it will remove properties in the Broad Ripple, Warfleigh and Butler-Tarkington neighborhoods from needing expensive flood insurance.

But the current plan completely leaves the town of Rocky Ripple susceptible to rising river waters. 

A neighborhood group called Save Warfleigh that has been lobbying for the levee to be completed called the announcement “a wonderful development.” Residents in Warfleigh have seen their flood insurance premiums increase as the city has spent two decades deciding how to complete the levee.

Save Warfleigh has been waging a public relations and petition campaign to pressure city officials to decide how they'll complete the wall. It's been delayed by studies, pushback by property owners down river and changing Army Corps. standards

Right now, flood protection from the levee extends from Broad Ripple to about Kessler Boulevard, but since the levee isn't connected to high ground, it's not technically complete and would provide minimal protection in the event of a flood. This third phase is intended to complete the levee. 

Butler-Tarkington and Rocky Ripple residents, meanwhile, are outraged, blaming the city of making an 11th hour decision that damages aesthetics and doesn't protect all homes. 

"The folks upstream only seem to want insurance protection. The folks downstream are looking for protection from floods," said Dennis Faulkenberg, a Butler-Tarkington resident. 

The neighborhood associated said this in part of a statement it put out.

BTNA has long opposed this option because of the threat it creates for catastrophic damage to the Central Canal and the Town of Rocky Ripple in the event of a major flood. Moreover, the Westfield Boulevard alignment requires the clearing of hundreds of mature trees and creates a 6 foot flood wall that runs along the canal and through historic Holcomb Gardens on the Butler University campus.

Butler University has expressed concerns about damage to Holcomb Gardens from levee construction. 

The neighborhood association is asking the city to delay this decision in order for a new administration, that of Mayor-elect Joe Hogsett, to weigh in. Legal action would be premature, Faulkenberg said.

Contact Ryan: 317.489.4491 | | @rpatrickdelaney 

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