Panel shoring up Little Cal levee, removing vegetation in corridor

2013-09-22T19:14:00Z 2013-09-23T10:55:06Z Panel shoring up Little Cal levee, removing vegetation in corridorLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent
September 22, 2013 7:14 pm  • 

MUNSTER | A flurry of activity continues along the Little Calumet River to prevent any repeat of the September 2008 flood that devastated many parts of Northwest Indiana and cost nearly $1 billion to rectify.

“Containing Mother Nature is never a winning battle,” said William Baker, chairman of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission at this month's meeting. “Today we are a lot more ready.”

Dan Repay, the commission's executive director, reported on operation/maintenance and flood-fighting efforts along the $275 million, 21-mile, man-made structure that has been under construction since the 1980s.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed inspection of the levee and flood control system constructed since the flood in Highland, Hammond and Munster as well as the renovation of long-neglected areas of the older levee system in Gary, from Chase Street to Martin Luther King Drive, he said.

Areas including the Gary South region were previously decertified by the corps because of levee deterioration.

The Gary South Levee Maintenance project completed by Grimmer Construction of Highland included tree clearing, fixing cracks in the levee wall, fixing the flap gates that were full of silt and installing a trail on top of the levee to allow vehicles to access the levee and river, Repay said.

“That will make it easier to monitor the river,” he said.

A preliminary draft of the Army corps inspection report is expected in October with the final report due in November.

Although controversial, the removal of dead, damaged and diseased trees that were left between the river and the levee wall is now completed, Repay said.

Some were ash trees infected with the emerald ash borer. Others were struck by lightning or destroyed by tornadoes that hit northern Munster.

Recent legislation says trees must be 15 feet from the levee, rather than the previous 10 feet allowance, said Commissioner Ron McAhron who represents the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Weeds and prairie grasses growing along the rip-rap and stone have been sprayed inside the levee because Army corps standards indicate nothing can grow in the flood protection system, Repay said.

The problematic pump station at Burr Street is being fixed with new tension lines. That project will be completed by year’s end, he said.

Demolition and rebuilding of the Columbia Avenue Bridge continues on schedule, Repay said.

The construction contract for the Monon Pedestrian Bridge between Hammond and Munster is set to be awarded on Thursday. The project will eliminate a major pinchpoint in debris collection that has blocked the flow of Little Calumet River water.

Forms to create a flood-fighting barrier along State Line Avenue have been ordered and should arrive in the next three to four weeks, Repay said. Then the concrete blocks can be poured and ready to use by late October.

A high-velocity channel that would redirect water pouring out of Hart Ditch into the Little Calumet River is also on the books, but possibly needs permits from a host of federal and state agencies, Repay said.

The channel would redirect water more easily to the east where there is far more water storage capacity than to the west, he said.

McAhron explained multiple jurisdictions need to analyze the project because the high velocity channel creates an unnatural structure in the river. A meeting between those agencies is being scheduled.

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