MUNSTER | Major projects to provide flood protection along the Little Calumet River are poised to begin next week, the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission heard at Wednesday’s meeting.
The commission is taking a proactive stance with all of these projects, rather than wait for problems to occur at a later time, said William Baker, the Little Cal panel chairman.
Helping to fund these projects is the $6 million funding the commission received from fees paid by residents of the watershed through their property taxes. The first payment was received last month.
Of that money, $2 million was immediately repaid to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority toward the $6 million loan that agency granted to the previous Little Calumet commission prior to the flood of September 2008. The state law granting the operations and maintenance funding stipulated that repayment, Baker said.
Among the first projects will be removal of what Baker called “garbage trees” inside the levees. Russell Tree Clearing will begin that work on Wednesday, removing cottonwoods and ash trees but leaving the root balls to keep the soil in place, said Dan Repay, commission executive director.
Most of the trees are between Kennedy Avenue and the Indiana/Illinois state line, which is the most densely populated and narrowest part of the waterway, Repay said.
As part of his report, Repay displayed photos of large trees that were blocking Hart Ditch being removed on July 7 by Wiltjer Excavating. That tree-clearing followed Hart Ditch from Main Street to the Little Calumet River. The trees were blown down by winds that accompanied recent storms, Repay said.
Bids for demolishing and reconstructing the Columbia Avenue bridge also will be opened on Wednesday, he said. The level of the bridge needs to be raised to provide flood protection. The commission, Munster, Hammond and Lake County have an agreement to fund the project. The project is expected to begin in August with Lake County supervising, Repay said.
Grimmer Construction is beginning work on July 21 to correct long-standing deferred maintenance problems along the levee system in Gary. That includes rehabilitating levees from Chase Street and 35th to Martin Luther King Drive. The trail on top of the levee will be redone and gravel will be placed there. Debris will be removed and animal burrows will be addressed.
The watershed study also is almost complete, Repay said. This study of the entire waterway system that flows into the Little Calumet River was undertaken as part of the state statute providing perpetual funding for operation and maintenance of the levee system.
A final report is expected in August with a list of 117 projects suggested by communities in the watershed.
In addition, blocks to provide flood protection along State Line Avenue also have been ordered, Repay said. As the large blocks are manufactured, they will be delivered and stored on site to be put in place in case of flooding from the Little Calumet River.
Final delivery is expected by Sept. 1, he said.