Debate over north Indianapolis flood plan renewed


The debate over building more flood walls in Indianapolis took a new turn Friday.

The Army Corps of Engineers released its final report and recommendations for protecting several north side neighborhoods along the White River. Of the five proposals, it said only two are viable and they're already drawing heavy criticism.

Robert Tomey, who is active in the Rocky Ripple area, said, "Both ideas are preposterous. It's unbelievable the government would even consider something like that."

Tomey is upset because neither plan does anything to protect the 350 homes in Rocky Ripple from the White River.

"Water levels are growing faster and higher than ever before and we need this added protection," he said.

One alternative involves building a flood wall along Westfield Boulevard and the Citizens Water Canal. It stretches from Butler University north, just shy of 56th Street.

It's very similar to a plan proposed a couple years back, but instead of being up to 6.5 feet high, it's no more than four feet high with removable panels added when needed. However, it would still require the removal of all trees within 15 feet of the wall.

The other idea is a series of flood walls north of the Riviera Club, crossing Illinois and Westfield Boulevard adjacent to the Chase Bank.

The Army Corps' final proposals follow years of debate over how to best protect hundreds of homes and businesses in the area from a devastating flood.

The initial plan was heavily opposed because it didn't include Rocky Ripple and it meant taking out hundreds of trees along the canal, which has a popular trail beside it.

Neal Bloede, active in the Butler-Tarkington area said the alternatives are no better.

"I don't know what's driving this but it should be public safety...One is pretty much the old plan rehashed and the other is no protection for Butler-Tarkington or Rocky Ripple," Bloede said.

The Army Corps' report says including Rocky Ripple, which years ago wanted no part of the plan, would add millions to the cost of the project and delay it further. It would mean tearing down 22 houses and putting in a sewer system.

Given the public opposition to the Westfield flood wall, the city asked the Corps for alternatives. Public Works spokesperson Lesley Gordon said they've yet to fully review the plans. But she acknowledged any plan will be a tough sell.

"But you have to look at the big picture and what's the best end result for the community," Gordon said.

Tomey and others say the battle isn't over yet.

"We will fight this with every dollar we have and other communities are also willing to put money in our till to fight the corps as well," Tomey said.

The Army Corps will take public comment on the two alternatives through July 8, with the city reviewing the plan and coming up with its own response.

The plan calls for the federal government to fund 65 percent of the project and the city the remainder.

Read the flood levee plan