by Thomas P. Healy
“The next phase is engineered, designed, advertised, and awarded,” said USACE project manager Michael Moore, who has been on the Indy North Levee team since 2003. “Construction will begin this spring.”
Archaeologist Keith Keeney and public affairs specialist Carol Labashosky joined Moore in a conference call from USACE’s Louisville office to discuss the project’s current status. Survey stakes in Holcomb Gardens and a public notice in the Indianapolis Star about a USACE permit application because of anticipated runoff into the Central Canal during construction of a flood gate prompted the request for the call in early January.
Moore said contractors working on Phase 3B-2 will establish a staging area near the Riviera Club entrance. “That property belongs to Indianapolis Power & Light and the City reached an agreement with them for the contractor to lay down equipment and materials there,” he said.
Regarding the public notice, “We’re looking for permission from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management so we can do construction on the last phase—3B-3—on this project,” Moore said. “The purpose of the Notice of Intent is to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from IDEM. As part of that process the applicant has to put a NOI in a generally circulated newspaper and provide an affidavit that the notice was published and send it to IDEM along with the current plan.”
Were the series of survey stakes that popped up last autumn in Holcomb Gardens on the grounds of Butler University part of the current plan? Keeney, who serves as cultural resource specialist for the project, said, “There were a lot of different stakes out there placed by multiple agencies. Some of those are the result of internal sessions we had with Butler University. Some show the alignment a few years ago and how we’re trying to move around some obstacles. Others have to do with the right-of-way and the planned construction work out there.”
Keeney’s involvement is part of the project requirements to comply with the National Environmental Protection Act and the National Historical Preservation Act. Kenney said USACE is obliged to identify resources or historic properties that are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and might be adversely affected by the project.
“On this particular project, four properties were determined eligible and would be adversely affected by the project, either directly or visually,” he said, adding, “By adverse affect we mean it changes the nature or the setting of the location—the aesthetic feel.”
Keeney identified two affected properties that would be aesthetically affected: the Butler-Fairview Historic District (bounded by Butler University on the west and the North Meridian Street Historic District on the east) and a home on Ripple Road at Canal Boulevard in Rocky Ripple. Two other historic properties would be directly affected by construction of the floodgate and wall structure: the Central Canal and Holcomb Gardens. He then undertook a process to identify alternatives that would avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse affects to those properties.
“Through that process we were able to make design changes to eliminate adverse affects to the Butler-Fairview Historic District as well as a historic home in Rocky Ripple but not avoid adverse affects to Holcomb Gardens or the canal,” Keeney said.
In collaboration with what he called “consulting parties”—property owners in the area of project 3B-3 such as Butler University, the City’s Department of Public Works, and others—Keeney developed a series of mitigation measures. He said that the process has reached the point where all the parties are circulating a draft Memorandum of Agreement [PDF] for review. He declined to comment on any of the specifics. “We cannot discuss the range of proposals at this time,” Kenney said. “These measures are something developed by the consulting parties to fit the needs of the resource and the community.”
Carol Labashosky concluded the call by saying, “Progress has been steady. The partnership is strong.”