A recently revealed plan by Veolia Indianapolis Water to forestall erosion to the banks of the Central Canal from College Ave. to Rocky Ripple, has set off alarm bells among environmentalists and residents on the city's Northside.
Central Canal is a conduit for roughly 60 percent of the city's water supply.
The Water Company wants to clear the Canal's banks of trees and shrubs whose roots, it says, contribute to erosion and then line them with a quarter-inch sheet of permeable plastic as a kind of retaining wall that will be covered with piles of broken stone. According to the Water Company, this project is scheduled to begin later this month and be completed before the end of the year.
Erosion has been a chronic problem along the canal, which serves as a recreational path for many citizens, and also provides habitat for six different types of turtles, as well as ducks, Canada geese, blue heron, muskrats and fish. The turtle population has been the subject of a study conducted by Butler University's Center for Urban Ecology since 2002.
The lack of public input or environmental impact studies concerning the project, combined with what appears to be an accelerated schedule for the project's start-up, has become a cause for concern among some members of the community.
Local environmentalists worry about the project's impact on wildlife, particularly the turtles, who lay thousands of eggs along the banks during the summer months and whose offspring will likely be buried by the construction as it is currently described. Others argue that vegetation on the canal banks can be a more effective deterrent to erosion.
Residents have also questioned how the plan will affect the Canal's visual character. At a public meeting held with little fanfare on Monday evening, Aug. 24, a comment by environmental advocate Clarke Kahlo to the effect that the design of the project was "ugly" reportedly drew applause from many people in attendance. The Central Canal was designated an American Water Landmark in 1971.
According to an article in The Indianapolis Star
, the Water Company has not applied for an environmental permit to conduct the project. But a permit from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is required whenever a project is expected to kill, injure or move animals, like the turtles. A DNR spokesman, Marty Benson, told The Star
that if a citizen were to file a complaint with the DNR regarding the project's potential impact on wildlife, it could trigger a review of the plan by the DNR.
Water Company representatives have stated that the Canal is not in a state of emergency and that they welcome public input regarding this project. They say a final plan, expected next week, might still be amended if the public speaks up.
If you have concerns about how the Water Company's erosion plan might affect the Central Canal, contact Matthew Klein, executive director of the city's Dept. of Waterworks at MKLEIN@indy.gov.