by Thomas P. Healy
Flood protection for Midtown neighborhoods is making progress and all signs point to an August 2019 completion of construction work on Section 3B-3 (the Westfield Alignment) of the Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project.
“We’re 100 percent funded and awarded for all phases of construction including mitigation,” said Jacob Sinkhorn, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) project manager. “We’re going full steam ahead. We don’t have any reason to believe the contractor will miss the schedule.”
There will be a big push on concrete work through the rest of the construction season, he said. “Once it gets cold, it might slow down a little.” Sheet pile work has been steady during the summer. Sinkhorn said the pilings will be encased in concrete about 2 feet thick that has an exterior stone pattern reminiscent of the one used in Warfleigh.
Another feature is a multi-use asphalt trail that begins at the historic iron truss bridge over the Central Canal, runs along Westfield Boulevard into the Butler University campus, and terminates at the circular drive in Holcomb Gardens. “It’ll be a real nice feature to go alongside the project,” Sinkhorn said.
Speaking of the Central Canal, Citizens Energy Group (CEG) reopened the Canal Towpath section between 30th Street and Interstate 65 in early August – four months ahead of schedule. Bike commuters, runners, and pedestrians are once again able to use that stretch of the greenway that had been closed since March 2 to accommodate construction work on a new supplemental water intake at 3400 White River Parkway Drive.
Funded in part by the City of Indianapolis as part of its support for the Westfield Alignment, the $15.6 million intake will allow 70 million gallons of water per day to be transferred from the White River to the Central Canal for use at CEG’s White River Treatment Plant. According to CEG’s manager of corporate communications, Dan Considine, the intake will act as a backup water supply to the canal during dry weather and provide an additional supply source for the canal. “The canal will retain its role as the primary source of drinking water for the center of Indianapolis,” he said. “The intakes will be secondary sources.”
Construction work is anticipated to continue until later this year and fencing is in place to keep greenway users on the path.
Rendering of Central Canal gate looking southwest for discussion only by DPW
Work on Phase 3B-2 of the levee project along the Riviera Club property is expected to be complete in early autumn. That portion of the project terminates at the Central Canal where Phase 3B-3 begins.
The City of Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) has released draft imagery of the floodgates (shown here).
USACE’s Sinkhorn notes that while the images are substantially correct, a slight change in the floodwall affects the set of stairs depicted. “The gate structure itself is unchanged and any changes are so detail-oriented, they wouldn’t show in the rendering,” he said.
DPW project manager Ben Easley said the City anticipates that the contractor will be able to begin construction on the gates by November.
For readers who have been wondering what construction of floodgates means for the Central Canal Towpath, Easley’s answer is: not much. “It is my understanding that the Central Canal Towpath will continue to run along the west (or north) side of the Canal, closer to the Riviera Club. The addition of the multi-use trail on the Westfield Boulevard side of the Canal will not affect this designation.”
Construction of Westfield Alignment wall outside of Rocky Ripple makes progress
Last summer, the Hogsett administration pledged $10 million in support of a flood reduction project for Rocky Ripple residents. The funds have been spent on vegetation management to eliminate hazards to the existing WPA-era levee as well as on engineering studies.
In July, the engineering and construction firm AECOM issued a report: “Geotechnical Evaluation and Alternative Development Rocky Ripple Local Flood Damager Reduction Project.” The more than 300-page document dives deep into the details of flood protection options for Rocky Ripple as well as for Butler University’s property that currently houses athletic fields and a farm. Four alternative scenarios are presented, from an earthen levee to several combination levee/floodwall options.
Only three alternatives are recommended by AECOM for consideration, ranging in cost from $63 million to $72 million. One alternative requires removal of 41 homes. The remaining two options would not remove any homes; however, either three or six homes would not receive protection. The report states that all options will require a floodgate at the southern end of the project where the White River meets the Central Canal.
Rocky Ripple Town Council member Carla Gaff-Clark said DPW has met with Butler and representatives of the Town to discuss the options. “There has definitely been progress,” she said. “After 25 years of being on the board, I believe we have an opportunity here to secure the town against flooding.”
The Town Council and Butler University recently announced a special meeting to review the alternatives with DPW and AECOM representatives at 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared in the August/September 2018 edition of the magazine.