North side residents concerned about flood wall for canal

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Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Residents of a north side neighborhood fear they could be living with Indy's version of the Berlin Wall. The Army Corps of Engineers is recommending construction of a concrete flood wall along the east side of the Central Canal from Capitol and Westfield Boulevard to Butler University.

The wall would range from one to six feet in height and require a 15-foot root-free zone on both sides.

Neal Bloede is president of the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Association. He calls the plan "ill-conceived."

"This wall would cut off access to the canal and eliminate a lot of trees," he said. "The canal and towpath [a city greenway that runs along the west side of the canal] are real assets to the city and I'd hate to see them irreparably damaged."

Jill Faulkenberg, who lives along Westfield right across from the canal, is worried. "The view will be gone. We have beautiful trees to look at and it will all be gone."

Faulkenberg also worries a wall would adversely affect property values.

Plans for a flood wall are outlined in The Army Corp of Engineers new Environmental Assessment for the White River Flood Reduction Plan. The city's Department of Public Works has been working with them on it.

DPW spokesperson Molly Deuberry said the plan is meant to protect the 2,400 homes and 200 businesses in the 100-year flood plain.

"We're just looking for an alternative that's less divisive and intrusive to the neighborhood," said Bloede.

But others argue against putting the wall along the canal. Rocky Ripple President Robert Tomey said, "The flood wall should run between the White River and the homes in Rocky Ripple."

That was the original plan many years ago, but residents of Rocky Ripple opted out.

Tomey has a house along the river. "The town council at the time lied to us. They told me I'd lose my house and others would too," he said.

He said the real reason the council pushed for opting out was "because they had riverfront property and they didn't want to ruin the view. They said you live along the river you should expect to be flooded."

Tomey said Rocky Ripple isn't in a flood plain. It's in a flood way.

"We need that flood protection. I've seen the water in my backyard. We are going to flood," he said. "We've begged to be re-included. The whole thing doesn't make sense. They want to butcher another community and put these 335 homes at risk. It doesn't make sense."

Eyewitness News was unable to reach the Army Corps contact working on this project.

Bloede was also concerned that public comment on the plan needed to be submitted by March 4th.

"We'd like the opportunity for public discussion," he said.

Deuberry said the city planned to hold hearings and said a final decision was still a ways off. She said funding for the $12 million project had yet to be secured. It called for the federal government to cover 75% of the cost and the city, the remaining 25%.

She also said there was no timeline for construction.