MUNSTER | Frustration over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ handling of the Little Calumet River flood protection project’s final phases reached new heights Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission.
The four commissioners each voiced objections and concerns about how the final three stages, from Kennedy Avenue to the Indiana/Illinois line, are being supervised by the local Army Corps of Engineers field office and the Chicago District office.
They also questioned Army Corps project manager Natalie Mills and Roy J. Deda, deputy for project management of the Chicago District, about how much additional money has been spent to correct flaws in flood control designs that were approved by the Army Corps.
One issue is the railroad closure near Kennedy Avenue. The design of the 2-ton structure approved by the Army Corps and built by Dyer Construction doesn’t work.
Hammond and Highland have approved sandbag use as flood protection at that railroad crossing. Last month Mills told the commission the Army Corps would not approve sandbags at that location and has instructed the company to make corrections at its expense.
Deda said Wednesday it was the railroad that objected to the sandbags.
“This part of the project is already $7.5 million over the original budget. No mas. Get a handle on this and stop the building,” said Ron McAhron of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in Indianapolis. “If the railroad is not satisfied with sandbags, they should put some skin in it.”
This site also lacks accessible spots where maintenance crews can get to the levee system and the river, he said.
“Are you walking away from the diverters without access to it?” he asked Army Corps officials.
“Our engineers are telling us we have to go forward,” Deda said.
Commissioner Tom Wichlinski said grass hasn’t yet been established along the levee and in residents’ backyards despite two years of promises that it would be finished.
Ceres Environmental is the contractor for the stage from the Northcote Bridge to Columbia Avenue, and Walsh & Kelly has the contract for the final stage from Columbia Avenue to the state line.
“We know it’s been dry and there’s no reason to send people out there to throw seed and waste more money. But they can do prep work,” Wichlinski said.
This was the final meeting before the new nine-member commission appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels takes over as the levee project’s local partner.