On Tuesday, the City announced its commitment to helping the Town of Rocky Ripple with flood protection and committed $10 million over the next five years to do so. This announcement comes as the result of efforts by BTNA and other stakeholders who have advocated for years that it would be immoral and unsound public policy to leave an entire neighborhood out of the flood protection plan. At our urging, the City undertook a review of Mayor Ballard’s decision to authorize the construction of a floodwall along the east bank of the Indianapolis Central Canal, crossing the Canal at Capitol Avenue and terminating in Butler University’s Holcomb Gardens, also known as the Westfield Alignment. The City hired AECOM, an engineering firm, to study the plan and alternatives for how to deliver flood protection to midtown. The results of that study demonstrate that it is technically feasible to deliver flood protection by continuing the project along the White River and that it would be less expensive than previously thought.
We thank the Mayor’s office for making this commitment to Rocky Ripple, and we hope that the City follows through with providing the Town full flood protection. We also thank our state officials, including Rep. Ed DeLaney, Rep. Greg Porter, Sen. John Ruckleshaus, and Sen. Greg Taylor, for their attention on this issue.
Despite the City’s recent commitment, however, it continues to pursue construction of the Westfield Alignment. To be clear, the current policy is to construct two walls. Assuming the local project for Rocky Ripple is built to the appropriate level, however, each wall would provide duplicative protection for Midtown homes located in Butler-Tarkington, Warfleigh, and Broad Ripple. The Mayor’s office estimates that the Westfield Alignment will be finished in three years, and that a Rocky Ripple Alignment could be finished in five years. Thus, the Westfield Alignment project could be rendered redundant (i.e., useless) in as little as two years. It is staggering that cultural resources including the Canal & Canal Towpath, as well as Holcomb Gardens at Butler University, would be sacrificed for so little.
It appears that construction of the Westfield Alignment will start soon. Residents can expect trees along the east bank of the Canal to start coming down some time this year, possibly as early as this spring. The same goes for trees and other foliage along a meandering path in Holcomb Gardens which today is marked by stakes. The City plans to bid out the project in the coming months as well. As of now, it is unclear when the start date is for the construction of the wall itself, but it likely will not be far off.
The US Army Corps of Engineers held a series of meetings last year to discuss the aesthetics of the project. The wall will likely have a stamped concrete look to it and will be accompanied by a walking path. There may or may not be low-level vegetation planted nearby. The attached picture is a Corps rendering of what the floodgate structure (located at Capitol Ave.) can be expected to look like. The wall is also rendered, as well as a hilly area to go around the floodgate due to the towpath being severed by its presence.
Though the City remains committed to the Westfield Alignment, we maintain that it needn’t be this way. Residents have been told for years that building around Rocky Ripple is not feasible. Well, on Tuesday the City stated it intends to pursue a project “that either lowers or eliminates [Rocky Ripple’s] need to have flood insurance.” Again, a flood protection plan that would eliminate Rocky Ripple’s flood insurance obligations would similarly eliminate this requirement for impacted homes in Butler-Tarkington, Warfleigh, and Broad Ripple. Constructing two walls would be an enormous waste of resources, both financial and cultural. We believe Indianapolis would be better served by focusing on a Rocky Ripple alignment to finish the project.
Thank you for your support on this and other issues. If you would like to share your thoughts on this issue with the Mayor’s office, we would encourage you to email Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett at Jeff.Bennett@indy.gov.
Clark P. Kirkman, President – BTNA
On behalf of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association