MUNSTER | The Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission voted unanimously recently to put up a flood protection structure this spring along 3,000 feet of State Line Avenue between Hammond and Calumet City.
The move came despite the lack of approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Frustrated by the long wait and the $1 million cost of the Army Corps’ proposed design, the commission hired Christopher Burke Engineering LLC last fall to design a more economical barrier for State Line Avenue.
The 4-foot high permanent solid block wall can be connected by steel rods and is estimated to cost about $100,000.
However, the Army Corps has repeatedly questioned those designs and deemed them unacceptable based on federal flood protection guidelines.
In the end, the commission decided to go ahead with its design by authorizing Day Repay, executive director of the Little Cal panel, to “move ahead with the structural analysis and prepare a bid package.”
Prior to and after that vote, a war of words erupted at the meeting between all five commission members and Col. Frederic Drummond and project manager Natalie Mills, corps representatives.
Chairman Bill Baker said something needs to be done now because spring rains could create flooding problems for State Line residents. Water could back up from the Illinois portion of the river, he said.
Drummond said that an April deadline for any flood protection isn’t possible to meet.
Both the Little Cal panel and the Army Corps agree that Hammond residents living along Hohman and State Line avenues need to be protected from any future flooding from water coming from the Illinois portion of the Little Calumet River.
What form that flood protection should take and how fast it can be put in place remains at issue.
“In June 2010, you (the Army Corps) were going to have a design to us ‘soon.’ Then it was definitely by Dec. 31 (2012). It’s now Feb. 20, 2013,” said Commissioner Ron McAhron of the Indianapolis-based Department of Natural Resources.
McAhron told Drummond and Mills that the corps' latest proposed design “is full of structural flaws.”
Among those flaws, he said, is the size of the blocks that would be placed along the narrow road. Each 4,000-pound block is 4 feet wide, which will spill over onto the roadway and force some drivers to go up on residents’ lawns to travel down State Line Avenue.
Commissioner Thomas Gozdecki questioned the timeframe the corps proposed for erecting the blocks in a flood.
“There are 830 blocks that must be moved (from a staging area). You are allowing one minute per block,” he said, adding that the corps standard for getting flood protection in place is six hours.
Even with multiple crews, putting the blocks in place will take 10 to 14 hours, according to the corps' report, Gozdecki said.
“We can leave our blocks in place,” he said.
Drummond repeatedly told the commission that he would approve a design that meets federal standards.