Indianapolis scraps Rocky Ripple flood wall plan


Score one for the neighbors. The city has scrapped plans for a controversial flood wall on the north side following strong opposition from nearby residents as well as Butler University and Citizens Energy.

The Army Corps of Engineers had proposed a flood wall as high as six feet along Westfield Boulevard between Capitol Avenue and Butler University to protect 2,400 homes and 200 businesses in the area's 100-year flood plain.

Marilyn Hunter, who lives along the White River in Rocky Ripple, said, "It's a huge relief. Rocky Ripple in general has been on pins and needles."

Hunter is among the many in the area who fought the flood wall.

"Because the way it was aligned, it would have walled [Rocky Ripple] into the flood plain and directly into the White River," she said.

Her son Stu Hunter, who also owns a home in Rocky Ripple, said he was surprised by the decision to nix the plan.

"They all but said they're going to do this no matter what, that it's going to happen," he said.

But Tuesday Public Works Director Lori Miser sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers saying, "Given the resounding opposition from the local community, we do not support moving forward with the Westfield Boulevard alignment. We discussed potential options and the need to conduct further analyses so that we can arrive at a solution that meets the needs of our residents."

City County Councilor John Barth who lives in Butler-Tarkington said, "It's clearly and loudly neighbors reacting, not just the leaders but the neighborhoods as a whole."

Since plans for the flood wall were announced nearly two years ago, the wall's been meet with continued opposition. In March scores of people marched in protest, holding signs and lying across one of the bridges leading into Rocky Ripple.

It wasn't just Rocky Ripple residents upset over the plans. Many in nearby Butler-Tarkington, Meridian-Kessler and Broad Ripple didn't want a wall as high as six feet in certain sections blocking the canal. The plan would have also meant cutting down hundreds of mature trees along Westfield Boulevard.

Even though the wall will not be built the issue is far from resolved. The area still needs a flood control plan. Heather Meloy, who lives in Rocky Ripple, said the threat of flooding from the White River is still very real.

Meloy said of the river, "some years it's high, others it's low, like this year, but there are times in the winter when we're out there with our sand bags to keep the town from flooding."

The debate over how to protect the area goes back nearly 20 years when the Army Corps proposed building a levee between the White River and the homes in Rocky Ripple. In 1996, residents voted to "opt out," with many later saying they did so because town leaders at the time intentionally gave them misinformation.

As Stu Hunter said, "everyone's on board now" for ensuring that Rocky Ripple is included in a flood protection plan. "I can't imagine even the hold-outs wanting to have their places turned into a swimming pool," which residents say would happen if the flood wall along Westfield were built.

As for what's next? Barth said the city will begin meeting with residents and "key stakeholders. It's going to take a while to carefully listen to and look at the options. I'm anticipating it not being a few months but a couple of years."

A DPW spokesperson said part of the larger flood protection plan, which calls for extending a levee along the river from Kessler Blvd to the Riviera Club at 56th Street will move forward. She said there is federal money available to complete that segment.