MUNSTER | About 2,500 diseased and damaged trees between the Little Calumet River and the flood protection levee system designed and built under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must be removed.
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, according to a report by Dan Repay, executive director of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission.
“All the trees are within 5 to 10 feet of the river,” Repay said.
Commission members were alarmed by the information presented at the agency’s February meeting.
“This has been my big bugaboo since the beginning. Why build a wall and leave trees inside?” said William Baker, commission chairman, looking at Army Corps representatives Col. Frederic Drummond Jr. and project manager Natalie Mills.
“It’s going to be challenging because there are no access road to the river bank. It’s an interesting scenario,” said Baker who has been chairman of the current commission appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels after the flood of 2008.
Late last year, the commission authorized Repay to work with other agencies, including the Munster and Hammond public works departments, to inspect and catalog the trees within the levee system.
Some of the more than 2,500 trees have been damaged by the emerald ash borer. Others have had lightning strikes or been chewed on by beavers, Repay said. Pink dots were placed on all the trees that must be removed.
Residents might object to the removal of some trees, he said.
“But it’s either pay now or pay later,” Repay said.
The “pay later” would involve flooding if the trees fall into the river and clog up the diverters or get caught under the Northcote or Columbia Avenue bridges, he said.
Work will be done in segments and will start from the west and go east. The trees will be cut, roped, tied and dragged out while the root balls will be left.
The tree clearing isn’t part of the overall maintenance of the levee system and will be stand-alone contracts. The cost of each segment will be different depending on the number of trees to be removed and the conditions in the area where removal is to take place, Repay said.
Baker emphasized that the tree clearing needed to be done as quickly as possible before spring rains, especially those usually experienced in April.