Response to Butler Tarkington Neighbor Association’s Most Recent Opposition to Complete the Indianapolis North Flood Reduction Project

The Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project (“project”) seeks to remove from the flood plain approximately 2,100 homes and businesses. Removing from the flood plain the approximately 4,000 people who likely live in these homes protects them from the very real and present threat of severe flooding with devastating consequence. Additionally, removing these homes and businesses from the flood plain protects these homes and businesses from the financial burden of annual premiums for flood insurance, which, for some are in the range of $8,000 – $10,000 per year. Millions of dollars a year literally leave the local economy due to flood insurance requirements. 

The City of Indianapolis (“City”) recently released its common-sense decision to leverage federal funds and complete the project. The City’s decision enjoys widespread support throughout Indianapolis. The Warfleigh Neighborhood Association supports the City’s decision. Participating members of SaveWarfleigh, Inc. support the City’s decision. Approximately 900 signatories to a petition urging the City to expeditiously complete the project support the decision. These individuals reside throughout Indianapolis. Elected representatives at both the federal and local level support the City’s decision. Citizens Energy Group supports the City’s decision, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) supports the City’s decision, and the City’s Department of Public Works supports the City’s decision. 

Unfortunately, the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood fails to support the City’s decision and recently distributed for immediate release a call to once again delay the project.

I’ve had the opportunity to review and consider in detail the BTNA’s call for project delay (“BTNA alternative”). I conclude the BTNA’s alternative exhibits certain weaknesses and flaws that undermine its ability to serve as a credible alternative. The BTNA’s alternative also fails to share important facts and raises serious questions and concerns. I provide perceived weakness, flaws, questions and concerns below:

(1) Representativeness. The BTNA releases a public policy statement that affects the very lives and well-being of over 4,000 individuals in the flood plain. It is the BTNA’s responsibility as a good neighborhood steward to demonstrate their position is widely held, both throughout their own neighborhood and throughout Indianapolis. The BTNA must provide evidence that “thousands of residents vehemently oppose” project completion. The BTNA must provide evidence that those Butler-Tarkington residents who live or soon will be mapped into the flood plain support the BTNA’s recent alternative. The BTNA should indicate to what extent the Board sought community and neighborhood input when formulating its December 15, 2015 policy position, especially in light of recent developments.

(2) BTNA: The City’s decision “runs counter to the city’s understanding of community objection and previously stated objection (sic) the Westfield Boulevard alignment.”
The BTNA here seeks to communicate for the City when it indicates the City’s decision runs counter to the city’s understanding of community objection. The BTNA cannot presume to know what the City may or may not understand. Nor can the BTNA claim to understand what conclusions the City may have reached based on community input – though the City’s recent decision to complete the project provides strong indication of such.
(3) “The BTNA has long opposed this option (the Westfield Boulevard Alternative) because of the threat it creates for catastrophic damage to the Central Canal.”

Flood waters currently will inundate the Central Canal in case of a significant flood event. The BTNA’s call to delay the project does nothing to eliminate its perceived threat to the Central Canal. Additionally, the BTNA offers no other alternative to actually protect the canal – especially, troubling because its last most favored alternative, the Canal West Bank Alignment, again, proves infeasible.
(4) The Westfield Boulevard Alignment creates catastrophic damage to the Town of Rocky Ripple in a major flood event and effectively prevents Rocky Ripple from future flood protection.

(i) Completing the project provides no flood protection benefit to Rocky Ripple. Abandoning the project provides no flood protection to Rocky Ripple. Abandoning the project imposes considerable cost upon 4,000 flood plain residents. Simply, the BTNA’s proposed alternative imposes extreme hardship and cost upon many, and, at the same time, provides benefit to no one. This clearly is an unreasonable strategy and alternative.
(ii) I’ve attached a project diagram. Inspection of the map shows completing the currently proposed project phase will not impair the possibility of future Rocky Ripple protection. The most likely factor preventing Rocky Ripple protection at this time is the $50,0000,000 project cost compared to the $5,000,000 in project costs required to complete the current phase. The BTNA must provide strong evidence, technical evidence, to support its claim that completing the Westfield Boulevard segment of the project effectively prevents Rocky Ripple from future protection.

(iii) The BTNA’s most recently preferred alternative, the Canal West Bank Alignment, provided no flood protection for Rocky Ripple. Additionally, completing that alignment would have required demolishing at least six Rocky Ripple homes. It seems disingenuous for the BTNA Board to propose delaying the project now because it fails to provide Rocky Ripple protection, while at the same time, its own preferred alternative, the Canal West Bank Alignment, similarly provides no Rocky Ripple protection.

(5) The Westfield Boulevard Alignment creates a 6-foot flood wall that will be a blank canvas for graffiti and create a sight barrier to activities happening across the canal on the towpath.

(i) The Westfield Boulevard Alignment consists of a fixed flood wall segment, significantly less than 6-feet in height, and a removable segment that will be installed only in the event of a flood event. I’ve attached project renderings for proposed portions as well as completed portions. Please note the actually completed section of the project is not laden with graffiti. Please also drive along Riverview Drive, from approximately Kessler Boulevard to 64th street to see the extent to which the completed portion of the project has become a target for graffiti. I think many of you actually will concur this completed segment presents no aesthetic concerns.

(ii) The Westfield Boulevard Alternative in many places will replace invasive honey-suckle that has reached a height in excess of the fixed portion of the flood wall. Completing the project actually will increase the view plain relative to the BTNA’s proposed alternative.
(6) The Westfield Boulevard Alignment will run through historic Holcomb Gardens on the Butler University campus.

The Corps of Engineers identified Holcomb Gardens as a unique resource within the path of the Westfield Boulevard Alternative as early as April of 2009 and included it in their consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act with the Indiana State Historic Preservation Officer (IN SHPO) and other consulting parties. Based on the Westfield Boulevard Alternative design, only the eastern side of Holcomb Gardens would be affected if the Westfield Boulevard is selected as the proposed action. See Appendix E, Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

Again, based on my review, the BTNA’s current proposal to once again delay project completion exhibits certain weaknesses and flaws that undermine its ability to serve as a credible alternative. The BTNA’s alternative also fails to share important facts and raises serious questions and concerns. I counsel extreme caution when making public policy statements that affects the very lives and well-being of over 4,000 individuals. 

I urge the BTNA to engage in a fact-based discussion and to freely share with all the facts upon which its policy pronouncements rest. I also urge the BTNA to drop its opposition to this project and, instead, to cooperate and collaborate with the City in order to develop an aesthetically pleasing final solution to a project that has languished for over 20 years. The project benefits are clear and incontrovertible.

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