MUNSTER — Positive financial and flood protection news closed out the calendar year for the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission.
At Wednesday’s meeting at Munster Town Hall, the commission heard there is now a positive cost share balance between it and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Col. Christopher T. Drew, of the corps’ Chicago district, said all the research and additional documents provided by Executive Director Dan Repay and staff confirmed it.
The issue was a sticking point because documents from the original Little Cal Commission, disbanded by Gov. Mitch Daniels after the flood of 2008, were stored in various places and formats.
“Now we can maintain focus and set a path forward,” Drew said.
“That’s outstanding. It’s a Christmas present,” said Chairman William Baker.
As part of the flood control and maintenance, Repay reported that videotaping the entire 6,500 feet of 96-inch pipe that runs from Arbogast Street in Griffith north has been completed. This “deep tunnel” diverts water from the Cady Marsh Ditch to the Little Calumet River. The videotaping won’t need to be done again for five years, he said.
Another project completed was terminating a sewer on Forrest Avenue in Hammond that was discharging into the Illinois side of the Little Calumet River, Repay said.
In addition, this year was the first time the entire flood protection project has been inspected by the corps. The inspection and changes in the flood plain have benefited communities after what Baker called “the life-altering events of the flood of 2008.”
More than 1,400 people have been removed from the flood plain and no longer have to pay for mandatory flood insurance, he said.
“That’s $4 million a year. That’s economic development,” Baker said.
One of the current projects, the sandbar modification project just west of the Kennedy Avenue Bridge by Haase Construction, is impacted by the wet, warm weather, Repay said.
“Right now it’s mud,” he said. “It will take two weeks moving the fill.”
In addition, crews must keep up with the beavers that are cutting down trees along the river to create dams, Repay said
A number of projects are up for consideration in 2016, Repay told commissioners.
“Our top two priorities are State Line (flood control) and Hobart Marsh mitigation,” he said.
Other projects include paving the top of the levee from Lyman Street to Cline Avenue when asphalt plants open again in the spring.
In addition, environmental permits to raise the Georgia Street Bridge in Gary are in the works, Repay said, adding that raising that structure will eliminate its closure during heavy rains.
All the culverts in Highland, Hammond and Munster also will be videotaped to look for blockages. Working with the Indiana Department of Transportation, the culverts along I-65 and the Borman Expressway must be videotaped, Repay said.
Another project calls for the Kennedy Avenue Bridge over the Little Calumet River to be raised 4 1/2 feet to eliminate sandbagging. This is a major thoroughfare between Hammond and Highland. Earlier this year, the commission sent requests for proposals to 40 companies and received eight responses, he said.
“We will narrow it down to four. That will probably be on the February meeting agenda,” Repay said.