CITY CONTINUES TO STRAIGHT-JACKET THE ST. MARYS

The City doesn’t seem to want to quit messing up the banks of the St. Marys River.  After the Flood of 2003, the City requested a Section 205 Study of the St. Marys River for the purpose of deciding where more levees, walls, and earthen berms would be slapped up.  A Section 205 Study of the Flood Control Act of 1948 as amended is a partnered effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – which doesn’t have exactly the best reputation for its plans – and a governmental entity.  In this case, the governmental entity was the City of Fort Wayne – also known as a sponsoring agency.

The Section 205 study was released in February 2005 with “recommendations” as to four different areas prone to flooding along the St. Marys.  One of the recommendations – which I oppose and have since the Study was released – impacts the river and Thieme Drive just across from my home.

A project which I suspect is still in the back of the minds of the City planners is to erect a god-awful concrete wall along Thieme Drive in West Central where I live.  This is the “cup” area – as I call it –  that floods at the intersection of Thieme Drive, Nelson Street, and West Berry Street.

The water does not come into the several homes that are impacted, which were built high enough that the water remains lower than the first floors of the homes.   The flooding is certainly an annoyance, but it is not critical enough to call for the destruction of one of the only river drives left in Fort Wayne.

Thieme Drive, Nelson Street, and West Berry Street

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As to the other projects, the City is well on its way to implementing the Study’s recommendations regardless of the impact on other areas along the river.  The City recently completed the 5400 foot levee and wall project extending from the Airport Freeway to Hartman Road along the east side of the St. Marys River.

Another project is now going full steam ahead, and that project will be constructed at the Park-Thompson area along the St. Marys River.

Here is the issue and my concern – every time a wall, levee, or berm is erected, it shoves water somewhere else.   Water finds  a way around barriers.  Each time the City takes a short-term approach which, granted, generates “oohs and ahs” of relief for some areas, residents of other areas are subjected to increased concerns about displaced river waters.  Unless the City frees up some storage area to provide a relocation area for displaced waters, the chances that another area will flood more extensively are increased.

St. Marys River, Flood of 1982 – Photo Credit:  News-Sentinel

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After the Flood of 1982, the Corps and the City undertook several phases to wall in the City’s rivers.  A final phase was built to protect the Nebraska neighborhood – a section of the City lying to the west of downtown and accessible by the Main Street bridge.  Since the completion of that phase in 2001, my area has flooded four times in five and a half years:  July 2003, June 2004, January 2005, and February 2008.

I have lived in my home now since 1995 – 14 years this month, and prior to 2003, the area rarely flooded.  But after completion of the Corps’ projects, this area has flooded several times in just a few years.  Now with the City’s continued straight-jacketing of the St. Marys River with its additional projects, I suspect that we will see an increasing number of floods in certain areas.

And what will the City’s response be?  Why, to try to put up more walls and levees – the process is never-ending.  All one has to do is to look at the photo above of the Flood of 1982 and its range to see that there aren’t enough walls and levees to protect every section of Fort Wayne – and it is futile to try to do so.

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Army Corps of Engineers, Floods, Fort Wayne, St. Marys River, Thieme Drive, West Central Neighborhood and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to CITY CONTINUES TO STRAIGHT-JACKET THE ST. MARYS

  1. This is a shame. What does the City Engineer’s office have to say about this? They are the ones signing off on this debacle.

  2. Mike H says:

    I know someone mentioned dredging before… maybe that’s too expensive to do? or lasting enough to be worthwhile? or the net effect wouldn’t be enough? And if the water is strait-jacketed one place would it be better to dredge it before or after that area?

    I guess there may be poultry pollution in FW itself from a giant chicken running around with its head cut off.

  3. Iceironman says:

    I like what San Antonio did with their river, clean, historical, brings in millions upon millions. How about that?

  4. South Bend:

    The City is in lockstep on building the walls, levees, and berms. I know of no city department that doesn’t favor building the barriers.

    After all, it is a project that can be seen within a short period of time and gives the illusion that flooding is being controlled. I don’t feel most people look at the long range damage that can be done in the form of shoving the water to other areas.

    It just creates a never-ending cycle of building walls, redirecting river waters, and then building more walls in the new areas. We have three rivers converging in Fort Wayne – flooding will never be controlled completely.

  5. Iceironman:

    I have looked at the San Antonio project many times, and I have some friends who have visited there and talked about how beautiful it is.

    I see several reasons that – beautiful as the San Antonio project is – it won’t be workable here. First, if you look at the river in pictures of the walk, you will notice how narrow it is. It may be only 20 or 30 feet across in the length that runs through San Antonio. That is because the San Antonion River’s source is at San Antonio, so it will be much smaller in width than the St. Marys River (which is the river that runs through downtown Fort Wayne). It appears to be more on the line of a narrow canal in some places. The St. Marys is one of two rivers that has its source about 100 miles away. The St. Marys originates in Ohio, so by the time it reaches us, it has broadened to a much greater extent than the San Antonio River.

    Second, the San Antonio River is the only river running through San Antonio. Fort Wayne has three rivers which are notorious for flooding.

    Third, the geography of the area is different than ours in Fort Wayne. We sit at the end of the “Great Black Swamp.” The soil here is heavy clay and does not drain well. I couldn’t find the soil type in San Antonio, but I would guess that it is less compact than our area, making it much easier to control any flooding that may occur.

    I think the San Antonio River Walk is gorgeous, and I hope that some day I can visit to see it. I just think because of the differences in our locality, the sources of our rivers, and the underying geologic structure and our heavy soils, the project would not be feasible.

  6. East Sider says:

    Charlotte:
    You are correct that as walls and berms are built it shoves water somewhere else. I live on the Maumee and have been here for 25 years. The flood last February (2008) was the worst we have experienced in nearly 20 years. We had water in our commercial building and yet received no support from the city. No one even checked to see if we were OK. Our home had water in the basement but not on the first floor. As they funnel water towards us we won’t be that fortunate for much longer. It’s the CSOs (combined sewer overflows) that cause me the greatest concern.

  7. East Sider:

    The Indiana Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management follows the “no adverse impact” rule when it comes to flood control projects.

    I am no engineer, but I think it is perfectly obvious that if you put walls up to stop waters from spreading out that those waters will simply find another area into which they will flow. And they will flow at a faster rate and at a higher level.

  8. Phil Marx says:

    I suggest we build high walls along all our rivers and damn them up when they reach the City Limits. Once a year we will release the waters to inspects and provide maintanence on the damn. Of course, if any of the cities downstream want to persuade us ($$$) to forgoe this process we can negotiate with them.

  9. East Sider:

    I forgot to add in my above post that the City does do a great job of protecting our homes in this area. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have anyone stop to see how you were doing during a flood.

    My concern is that the City has decided that the few homes that are impacted along Thieme Drive, West Berry, and Nelson Street are part of their “voluntary” buyout plan. I know I will never sell my home, and I think that the others may feel this way also.

  10. Phil:

    Nice try. 🙂

    I really think that the Corps and the City missed the best opportunity suggested in the study done after the Flood of ’82. That was to use a Trier Ditch cutoff to divert the overflow from the St. Marys River to the Maumee outside of New Haven.

    When I asked about why we didn’t pursue either a 40% diversion or an 80% diversion(figures in the study), I was told it was the most expensive alternative. Seems to me we have spent additional millions now because a better option was chosen.

    I have a copy of the entire Flood of ’82 study, and when I read it, I don’t see the figures that the Trier Ditch cutoff was the most expensive.

  11. East Sider says:

    Charlotte:
    No help was no surprise. A city official told me during an earlier flood event that “The city has made no committment to your area. If you want sandbags you’ll have to pay for them.”
    We have “adverse impact” but no political horsepower.

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